Berkshire’s Munger urges regulators to ease up on Wells Fargo


(Reuters) – Charlie Munger, the longtime business partner of fellow billionaire Warren Buffett, said on Wednesday it is time for regulators to “let up” on Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N), which was barred this month from asset growth until it addresses a series of problems. Munger spoke at the annual meeting of Daily Journal Corp (DJCO.O), the Los Angeles-based newspaper publisher he chairs. CNBC broadcast the meeting on its website. Daily Journal typically draws little attention from investors. But its star attraction was Munger, 94, who has been vice chairman at Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) for four decades. Berkshire owns close to 10 percent of Wells Fargo. “Of course, Wells Fargo had incentive systems that were too strong in the wrong direction, and of course they were too slow in reacting properly to bad news,” but it will “end up better off” for having made those mistakes, Munger said. “I think it’s time for regulators to let up on Wells Fargo. They’ve learned,” he said. Munger spoke less than two weeks after the Federal Reserve blocked the San Francisco-based bank from boosting its asset base until it makes “sufficient improvements.” Wells Fargo has been beset over the last year and a half by revelations that it deceived customers, such as by opening unauthorized accounts and forcing them to take out auto insurance they did not need. Munger also endorsed the recently announced plan by Berkshire, Inc (AMZN.O) and JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) to set up a health care company for their employees to help combat spiraling costs. The current system “runs out of control on the cost side,” causing behavior that is “regrettable” and “evil,” Munger said. “It’s not right to bleed so much money out of our dying people,” Munger said. “I‘m all for somebody trying to figure it out.” Buffett has credited Munger with broadening his investment horizons, and seeking out great companies at fair prices rather than emphasizing fair companies that can be bought cheaply. Both executives field shareholder questions at Berkshire’s popular annual meetings, to be held this year on May 5. Munger has acknowledged he does not have many years left at Berkshire. Last month, the company promoted executives Greg Abel and Ajit Jain as vice chairmen. They are widely considered the top candidates to succeed Buffett as chief executive officer. Reporting by Jonathan Stempel and Jennifer Ablan in New York; Editing by Jeffrey BenkoeOur Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
Source: Reuters