As a Billionaire


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As a billionaire

Buffett became a paper billionaire when Berkshire Hathaway began selling class A shares on May 29, 1990, with the market closing at US$7,175 a share. In 1998 he acquired General Re (Gen Re) as a subsidiary in a deal that presented difficulties—according to the Rational Walk investment website, “underwriting standards proved to be inadequate,” while a “problematic derivatives book” was resolved after numerous years and a significant loss.  Gen Re later provided reinsurance after Buffett became involved with Maurice R. Greenberg at AIG in 2002.

During a 2005 investigation of an accounting fraud case involving AIG, Gen Re executives became implicated. On March 15, 2005, the AIG board forced Greenberg to resign from his post as Chairman and CEO after New York state regulators claimed that AIG had engaged in questionable transactions and improper accounting.  On February 9, 2006, AIG agreed to pay a US$1.6 billion fine. In 2010 the U.S. government agreed to a US$92 million settlement with Gen Re, allowing the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary to avoid prosecution in the AIG case. Gen Re also made a commitment to implement “corporate governance concessions,” which required Berkshire Hathaway’s Chief Financial Officer to attend General Re’s audit committee meetings and mandated the appointment of an independent director.

In 2002, Buffett entered in US$11 billion worth of forward contracts to deliver U.S. dollars against other currencies. By April 2006, his total gain on these contracts was over US$2 billion. In 2006, Buffett announced in June that he gradually would give away 85% of his Berkshire holdings to five foundations in annual gifts of stock, starting in July 2006—the largest contribution would go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

In 2007, in a letter to shareholders, Buffett announced that he was looking for a younger successor, or perhaps successors, to run his investment business. Buffett had previously selected Lou Simpson, who runs investments at Geico, to fill the role; however, Simpson is only six years younger than Buffett.

On August 14, 2014, the price of Berkshire Hathaway’s shares hit US$200,000 a share for the first time, capitalizing the company at US$328 billion. While Buffett had given away much of his stock to charities by this time, he still held 321,000 shares worth US$64.2 billion. On August 20, 2014, Berkshire Hathaway was fined $896,000 for failing to report December 9, 2013 purchase of shares in USG Corporation as required.