Bloomberg News has a piece covering a talk that Berkshire Hathaway vice chairman Charles Munger gave at the University of Michigan in which Mr. Munger more or less explains why he hasn't signed on to the Warren Buffett-Bill Gates "Giving Pledge." From the article:
At the same event, Munger said private investment may advance society more than charity. He's a director at Costco Wholesale Corp., the largest U.S. warehouse-club chain, and has been Berkshire's vice chairman for more than three decades.
"I believe Costco does more for civilization than the Rockefeller Foundation," Munger said. "I think it's a better place. You get a bunch of very intelligent people sitting around trying to do good, I immediately get kind of suspicious and squirm in my seat."
The Bloomberg article says Mr. Munger's "take in Berkshire, which didn't take government aid, is worth about $1.6 billion." While it's true that Berkshire didn't directly take government aid, Berkshire's investments took plenty of government aid. The final paragraph of the article reports, "New York-based Goldman Sachs took $10 billion in U.S. capital, while San Francisco-based Wells Fargo received $25 billion. Both banks have repaid the bailouts." We've reported here on the other Buffett investments that received government aid: $751.5 million to M&T Bank Corporation, $6.6 billion into U.S. Bancorp, and $3.38 billion into American Express. Not to mention the "stimulus" spending on high-speed rail that will benefit Berkshire-Buffett's Burlington Northern and Santa Fe railroad, and GE Capital's agreement with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's Temporary Liquidity Guaranty Program to issue up to $139 billion in debt backed by a government guaranty. It all makes the claim that Berkshire "didn't take government aid" seem pretty inaccurate, or at the very least misleading.