- Charlie Munger tore into bitcoin, Robinhood, and SPACs at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting.
- Warren Buffett’s business partner dismissed “big tech” competition concerns.
- Munger warned that aggressive federal spending can’t go on forever.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Warren Buffett’s right-hand man blasted bitcoin, Robinhood, and SPACs at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting on Saturday.
Charlie Munger – Berkshire’s 97-year-old vice-chairman – also defended “big tech” companies from claims they need to be broken up, and warned that unchecked federal spending will ultimately end in disaster.
Here are Munger’s 16 best quotes from the meeting, lightly edited and condensed for clarity:
1. “It’s crazy to think anybody is going to be smart enough to hug the money and then just come out on the bottom tick in some crazy crisis and spend it all. That’s too tough a standard. Anybody who expects that of Berkshire is out of his mind.” – dismissing the idea that Berkshire could have deployed a large chunk of its cash pile when markets tanked last spring.
3. “I would not like to see our present giants brought down to some low level based on any competitive reasoning. I don’t think they’re doing a lot of harm to any competitor. I think they’re a credit to the market, credit to our civilization.” – arguing against breaking up the “big tech” companies.
4. “There’s a good chance that this extreme conduct is more feasible than everybody thought. But I do know if you keep just doing it without any limit, that it will end in disaster.” – suggesting that loose monetary and fiscal policy may be more sustainable than feared, but it can’t go on forever.
5. “It’s a moral failing to some extent. The easy money made by things like SPACs and derivatives and so on – you push that to excess, it causes horrible problems with civilization. It reflects no credit on the people who are doing it and no credit on the regulators and monitors that will allow it. It’s not just stupid, it’s shameful.”
6. “I don’t mind the poor fish that gamble. I don’t like the professionals that take the suckers.” – emphasizing that he’s far less concerned about amateur investors speculating than the trading apps taking advantage of them.
7. “We’re used to shooting fish in a barrel, but that’s gotten harder.” – bemoaning the lack of bargain stocks on the market.
8. “Bernie Sanders has basically won. With everything boomed off so high and interest rates so low, the millennial generation is going to have a hell of a time getting rich compared to our generation. The difference between the rich and the poor in the generation that’s rising is going to be a lot less. So Bernie has won. He did it by accident, but he won.”
9. “If you’re repurchasing stock just to pull it higher, it’s deeply immoral. But if you’re repurchasing stock because it’s a fair thing to do in the interest of your existing shareholders, it’s a highly moral act. And the people who are criticizing it are bonkers.”
10. “It’s probably a mistake to be anti-capitalist. Capitalism is what raises GDP for everybody. I’m a little wary of just constantly being mad at people because they have a little more money.”
11. “It is stupid for states to drive out their wealthiest citizens. The old people that don’t commit crimes, that donate to the local charity – who in the hell in the right mind would drive out the rich people? Florida and places like that are very shrewd, and places like California are being very stupid. It’s contrary to the interest of the state.”
12. “I hate the bitcoin success. I don’t welcome a currency that’s so useful to kidnappers and extortionists and so forth. Nor do I like just shuffling out a few extra billions and billions and billions of dollars to somebody who just invented a new financial product out of thin air. I should say modestly that I think the whole development is disgusting and contrary to the interest of civilization. I’ll leave the criticism to others.”
13. “Oh, Warren, even though you shot and missed, you were at least shooting at an elephant. The cost of health care in Singapore is 20% of what it is in the United States, and their medical system works better. So you were shooting at a huge elephant. But as you found out, it’s very hard to for people to get very enthusiastic about losing part of their income.” – commenting on Haven, Berkshire’s joint venture with Amazon and JPMorgan to lower employee-healthcare costs and improve care.
14. “It’s just godawful that something like that would draw investment from civilized men and decent citizens. It’s deeply wrong. We don’t want to make our money selling things that are bad for people.” – criticizing Robinhood and other trading apps for encouraging amateur investors to gamble on stocks and dabble with options trading.
15. “The states have replaced the Mafia as the proprietor in the numbers game. They pushed the Mafia aside and said, ‘That’s our business, not yours.’ It doesn’t make me proud of my government.” – comparing state lotteries to the “Italian lottery” run by the mob.
16. “If you’re not a little confused by what’s going on, you don’t understand it. We’re in uncharted territory.” – arguing that nobody knows the medium-term effects of stimulus checks, near-zero interest rates, and aggressive federal spending on the US stock market and economy.
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