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Fund Urges Berkshire Hathaway to Replace Buffett as Chair

In proposing to install an independent chair, the National Legal and Policy Center said the roles of CEO and chairman are “greatly diminished” when one person holds both

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Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett, 91, has run Berkshire Hathaway since 1965. Berkshire plans for Buffett's son Howard Buffett to become non-executive chairman after his father's departure. Photo: Reuters

 

CalPERS, the largest US public pension fund, on Tuesday said it will vote for a shareholder proposal that Berkshire Hathaway  replace Warren Buffett as chairman, though he would remain chief executive officer.

The fund, whose full name is the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, disclosed its vote in a regulatory filing ahead of Berkshire’s scheduled April 30 annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.

CalPERS said it invests more than $450 billion, including more than $2.3 billion in Berkshire shares. Berkshire did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In proposing to install an independent chair at Berkshire, the nonprofit National Legal and Policy Center said the roles of CEO and chairman are “greatly diminished” when one person holds both.

Berkshire opposes the proposal. It has said someone outside management should be chairman after Buffett is no longer in charge, but that the billionaire should remain chairman and CEO.

Buffett, 91, has run Berkshire since 1965. Berkshire plans for Buffett’s son Howard Buffett to become non-executive chairman after his father’s departure, while vice chairman Greg Abel is slated to become CEO.

Shareholder proposals that Berkshire opposes are generally defeated by large or overwhelming margins. Buffett recently controlled about 32% of Berkshire’s voting power, while owning about 16% of its stock.

CalPERS said it will also vote for shareholder proposals that Berkshire report on its plans to reduce greenhouse gases and improve diversity, and its own proposal that Berkshire report on its plan to handle climate risk. Berkshire opposes these proposals.

CalPERS also plans to withhold votes to reelect directors Susan Decker and Meryl Witmer because of a lack of disclosures related to climate change.

The fund backed US company directors 72% of the time in 2021, according to the research firm Insightia.

 

  • Reuters, with additional editing by George Russell

 

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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.

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