Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Warren Buffett on Charlie Rose's Show

CHARLIE ROSE: Warren Buffett is here. As you know, he is perhaps the world’s most respected investor. He’s also chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

He has been on this program many times. I last spoke with him over a year ago at the peak of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. At that time, he said that America had been struck by an economic Pearl Harbor, but much has changed since then, and he’s here to tell us how he views a global and American economy in recovery.

His own company reflects the progress made in recent months. Last week, Berkshire Hathaway struck a $26 billion deal to buy all of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, the largest acquisition in company history. He called the deal an all-in wager on the American economy. He is in New York for a town hall event that he held with Bill Gates at Columbia University yesterday. He graciously agreed to stay over in New York an extra night, and I am pleased to have a good friend of this program and a good friend of mine back at this table. Welcome.

WARREN BUFFETT: Thank you, Charlie. Pleased to be here.

CHARLIE ROSE: Great to see you. It has been, certainly from the middle of 2008 to the middle of 2009, one incredible year.

WARREN BUFFETT: One incredible year. One to a lifetime, I hope.

CHARLIE ROSE: Yes. Tell me about it for you.

WARREN BUFFETT: Well, it was-- it really was an extraordinary time in this country. We came closer to a financial meltdown than certainly any time I have ever seen, and probably in certain respects even -- there was even more panic than the Great Depression, because it came on so fast and so unexpected.

And the whole country wanted to deleverage, corporations, individuals, and fortunately we had a government that responded. It was -- when we talked last, it was a little question of whether Congress would respond like they should. They finally did, and I -- I felt they would in the end. I mean, in the end, they come together for things that are this vital to the country. But we had the right people in Washington. If we’d had a group that behaved like a deer in the headlines, that deer would have gotten run over.

CHARLIE ROSE: So Paulson and Bernanke and Geithner were the right people at the right time, and you don’t know what might have happened if others had been in those positions of power.

WARREN BUFFETT: I can think of others-- I’m not going to name them-- but I can think of others where the ending would have been with us in the abyss rather than just peering down into it.

CHARLIE ROSE: You made some investments during that period.

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