What would Warren Buffett tell United Airlines to do?

Thursday, 13 April, 2017

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is reportedly the largest single shareholder of United Airlines parent’s United Continental Holdings (UAL) with a stake of 28.95 million shares, or 9.2% of the shares outstanding (according to latest SEC filings).

So far Buffett has not spoken about this United self-inflicted mess (United Express Flight 3411 incident wiki page) yet but we may learn something from history. You see, Buffett biography The Snowball‘s author Alice Schroeder reported Buffett (an American Express investor) wrote the following during the 1963 Salad Oil Scandal (or “Soybean Scandal”) [with emphasis added],

It is our feeling that three or four years from now, this problem may well have added to the stature of the company [American Express] in establishing standards for financial integrity and responsibility which are far beyond those of the normal commercial enterprise.

Schroeder continues in The Snowball [with emphasis added],

Buffett wrote that two paths lay before the company, and that an American Express that took responsibility and paid the $60 million [note: remember, this is 1963!] to the banks would be worth very substantially more than American Express disclaiming responsibility for its subsidiary’s acts.” He described the $60 million payment as inconsequential in the long run, like a dividend check that got “lost in the mail”.

Using history as guidance, what would Warren Buffett tell United Airlines to do?

My guess is Buffett would advice United CEO Oscar Muñoz (or whoever replaces him) to take responsibility and pay a reasonable amount to settle the pending lawsuit as a United that take responsibility “would be worth very substantially more than United disclaiming responsibility“.

And in an imaginary world that Muñoz (or whoever replaces him) doing the RIGHT THING, “this problem may well have added to the stature of the company [United] in establishing standards for integrity and responsibility which are far beyond those of the normal commercial airlines.” Yes, things need to be done RIGHT now, and United need to lead in “establishing standards for integrity and responsibility which are far beyond those of the normal commercial airlines.

We will see what will happen in time. With Berkshire’s $2 billion (April 13 closing price of $68.07 multiply by 28.95 million shares) investment holding in United, I won’t be surprised reporters will want to ask what Buffett thinks about this mess next time he is interviewed on CNBC or other news media. We will see if I’m right or wrong.

Have a watch of Dr. Dao’s lawyers (more info at Thomas Demetrio’s law firm) and his daughter Crystal Dao Pepper’s hour long press conference today (CNN report) (CBC FB full video, CBC News report).

April 13, 2017 Update:

Sen. Franken (April 11, 2017), “Sen. Franken Presses United Airlines to Explain Forcible Removal of Passenger on Weekend Flight” [emphasis added]

– A federal cap exists on the amount of money a commercial airline may compensate a passenger for being involuntarily denied boarding or rescheduled for a flight. Why was the full amount of $1,350 not offered to passengers aboard Flight 3411 before the passengers were involuntarily denied boarding and forcibly removed? Does the $1,350 cap serve any benefit to consumers?

– Was the Louisville-bound flight oversold prior to including the four United Airlines personnel reported to have been granted seats to enable them to reposition from Chicago to Louisville? If so, were there alternative flight or ground transportation options for these four crew members that could have ensured they arrived in Louisville with sufficient time to board their next flight? Did United Airlines have the ability to assign other crew members to that flight departing from Louisville?

Does United Airlines limit the number of airline tickets that may be oversold on each flight?

Aviation Week, “Podcast: United in Crisis” – ATW and Aviation Daily editors discuss multiple mishaps and backlash after video of passenger’s violent removal goes viral.

LA Times Op-Ed. “Let Richard Branson kill United Airlines

LA Times, “At United Airlines and Wells Fargo, toxic corporate culture starts with the CEORead the rest of this entry »


Warren Buffett after Trump win

Saturday, 12 November, 2016

CNN Money (Nov 11, 2016): One-on-one with Warren Buffett after the 2016 election


Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything – First Look

Wednesday, 21 November, 2012

Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything by Carol J. Loomis - pix 1

Forty-two months! Thats how long I’ve been eagerly awaiting for Carol Loomisnew book “Tap Dancing to Work: Warren Buffett on Practically Everything, 1966-2012: A Fortune Magazine Book” (368 pages, on sale Nov 26th and online amazon.com & indigo.ca). Carol is Fortune magazine senior editor-at-large and a long time (40+ years) close friend of Warren Buffett! I am thrilled to see Carol’s book published and in my hands as it feels like having an insightful person who knows Warren really well to guide me through some important and insightful articles. It will take me some time to read & review the book, please stay tune for my detailed review. Until then, my first impression of the book is it looks awesome!

Long time readers of Warren‘s news and insights will be familiar with some of key articles in this collection and also see many (for me) new articles that are important but less well known. Carol has added many insightful commentaries before the articles to give us context and share with us her views. For example, the article “The Inside Story of Warren Buffet” (April 11, 1988) is Fortune’s first profile of Warren and Carol’s preamble explains what lead her to finally wrote the first profile about Warren after knowing him for 20+ years at that point! And then the afterword for articles like “Buffett Hits $200 million Downdraft” (Nov 17, 1994) reminds readers that Warren actually made money on the USAir investment (which many people may have an impression of it being a money losing investment).

P.S. Now, let me explain my wait of almost forty-two months in this postscript. You see, in April 2009, shareholders of Warren Buffett‘s Berkshire Hathaway NOT physically presented at the annual shareholders’ meeting in Omaha were given opportunities to ask Warren & Charlie remotely in advance via email for the first time. And I jumped at the chance by emailing my question to Carol! Along with my question, I told Carol that,

I am a big fan of your Fortune articles about Warren and BRK. (I have taken the time to look up some of your older articles and really enjoy reading them.)”

In Carol’s email reply was where I first read of the mention of a possible book (the book that I am finally holding in my hands)! So, yes, I’ve been eagerly awaiting the book since Apr 2009, and that is about forty-two months! :)

P.P.S. Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed there is a stack of five books in the above picture. Can you guess the titles of the Warren related books in the stack? Find out how many you guess correctly by clicking here to see this picture.

P.P.P.S. If you have read this far, you might as well check out my review of Warren’s biography “Snowball” by Alice.

note: this article is cross-posted by me at examiner.com

May 16, 2016 Update: (with video) “Buffett’s editor Carol Loomis: Pen, paper, Fed-Ex & email but never the telephone“. Via Yahoo, click here to view a full replay of the 2016 Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholder meeting


Obama’s State of the Union speech 2012 – Selected excerpts

Wednesday, 25 January, 2012

Keywords: Trade Enforcement Unit, Reemployment system, community career centers, clean energy, natural gas, wind, solar, battery industry, , , ,

Watch President Obama Deliver the 2012 State of the Union Address

Some excerpt from Obama’s State of the Union address: Full text [HT CBS]

Trade Enforcement Unit

“I will go anywhere in the world to open new markets for American products. And I will not stand by when our competitors don’t play by the rules. We’ve brought trade cases against China at nearly twice the rate as the last administration – and it’s made a difference. Over a thousand Americans are working today because we stopped a surge in Chinese tires. But we need to do more. It’s not right when another country lets our movies, music, and software be pirated. It’s not fair when foreign manufacturers have a leg up on ours only because they’re heavily subsidized.

Tonight, I’m announcing the creation of a Trade Enforcement Unit that will be charged with investigating unfair trade practices in countries like China. There will be more inspections to prevent counterfeit or unsafe goods from crossing our borders. And this Congress should make sure that no foreign company has an advantage over American manufacturing when it comes to accessing finance or new markets like Russia.”

Reemployment system

“Jackie Bray is a single mom from North Carolina who was laid off from her job as a mechanic. Then Siemens opened a gas turbine factory in Charlotte, and formed a partnership with Central Piedmont Community College. The company helped the college design courses in laser and robotics training. It paid Jackie’s tuition, then hired her to help operate their plant. Read the rest of this entry »


Quotes of Warren Buffett at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women – Buffett dares Rupert Murdoch to publish tax returns together re WSJ challenge

Wednesday, 5 October, 2011

Few interesting quotes from “Transcript of Warren Buffett at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit

* “As of today, our housing-related businesses are as bad as they’ve ever been during this period. Everything else you name is up. And our railroad carried 200,000 car loads last week, that’s the highest total in three years. That’s stuff moving around the country, supplying merchants and doing all kinds of things. If you take our five largest businesses, all of them will either set records for earnings or just about set records for earnings this year.”

* “If I can buy dollar bills for 90 cents, I’ll buy them. I want to warn the people that are selling to me that I believe I am buying their dollar bills for 90 cents because they’re our partner. So, I give them notice first. And then if they want to sell me dollar bills cheap — any of you want to do it, I’m here.”

* “And since 1992, the average income of the 400 highest incomes has gone from 40-odd million to 220-odd million, fivefold. During that time, their tax rate as a percentage of taxable income has fallen from 29 percent down to 21 percent. That counts payroll taxes and income taxes.”

* “I’m not supposed to mention it here, but the Forbes 400 just came out. (Laughter.) And the aggregate wealth of the Forbes 400 this year was over $1.5 trillion. That’s up sevenfold in the last 25 years from 200 million roughly 25 years ago. That is not what the American public has experienced. So, the disparity has grown wider and wider in this country.” Read the rest of this entry »


Warren Buffett on Charlie Rose talking about his NYT op-ed “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich”

Tuesday, 16 August, 2011

Have watch of the insightful Warren Buffett, in his own words, chatting with the great interviewer Charlie Rose about his NYT op-ed “Stop Coddling the Super-Rich” 14, Aug, 2011. With respect to business insights, Warren loves data and he sees data from 70+ businesses, so insights from him are worth considering.

update: Last night, Aug 15, 2011, program is now on YouTube. Have a watch.

P.S. As a side note, I not only have read Warren’s 62 chapters and 960 pages biography “Snowball”, I also frequently read Alice’s blog. Including, belatedly, this Aug 6 article “Buffett Makes First “Unfriendly” Takeover Offer“.


Credit worthiness of the United States; End the deficit in five minutes; 60% long-term capital gain and 40% short-term gain

Tuesday, 12 July, 2011

I finally managed to find some time to catch up on things I want to read, “CNBC Transcript: Warren Buffett on Russian Roulette, Tax Breaks for Corporate Jets, and America’s Bright Future

Here are a few excerpts from CNBC Transcript: Warren Buffett.

BUFFETT: I can— I can— I can end the deficit in five minutes.
BECKY: How?
BUFFETT: You just pass a law that says that any time there’s a deficit of more than 3 percent of GDP, all sitting members of Congress are ineligible for re-election. Yeah. Yeah. Now you’ve got the incentives in the right place, right? So it’s capable of being done. And they’re trying to use the incentive now we’re going to blow your brains out, America, you know, in terms of your— of your— in terms of your debt worthiness over time, and that’s being used as a threat. A more effective threat would be just to say if you guys can’t get it done, we’ll get some other guys to get it down. And incidentally, we had— we had Simpson-Bowles, you know, almost eight or 10 months ago.
BECKY: Right. […]”

BUFFETT: Oh, I would— well, you certainly change it on capital gains and dividends. I mean, if you take the 400 richest Americans and the 400 people who paid the greatest income tax— the Treasury’s been putting those figures out for 15 years or so. If you go back 15 years, the average income of the 400 top people— the 400 top people’s around 45 million. They paid about 27 percent. Now it grew, the most recent figures, to 350 million. That is incredible. And that’s nothing like’s happened to the rest of the world. The tax then was 16.6. So while they’ve gotten ungodly richer, the rate has come down 11 points. Now, that is a big tilt in the world. And I would go after the very rich. […]”

BUFFETT: I would say this. I would say this. The capital gains rate at 15 percent, the— if you buy a future, S&P future in Chicago and it goes up 10 seconds later, you resell it, it’s 60 percent long-term capital gain and 40 percent short-term gain. Now, I’m not sure, you know, how anybody can come up with the logic of that.”


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