Mr. Buffett, 91, is facing a slightly more controversial annual meeting than usual, despite the fact that Berkshire’s shares, which have risen nearly 8 percent this year, have outperformed the overall market, which has fallen 13 percent. “Historically, Berkshire equities have performed better during periods of economic hardship as investors made an ‘escape to quality,'” Cathy Seifert, an analyst at CFRA Research that follows Berkshire, wrote in a note to clients last week.
Dissident shareholders put forward a proposal asking Berkshire to revise how it views and details its climate risk, something Mr Buffett has opposed doing. They say Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which manages a number of major utilities, has limped its rivals in making plans to lower its carbon dioxide emissions. The climate proposal last year had the support of many major shareholders outside Mr. Buffett’s inner circle, including BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street.
In addition, a number of major investors, including the giant California Public Employees Retirement Fund, supported a shareholder proposal that sought to remove Mr. Buffett, who is currently both CEO and chairman of the company’s board, from his role as chairman. That proposal is one that larger investors have also flown in other companies, arguing that division of roles is better corporate governance.
Mr. Buffett opposed the proposals, and they failed on Saturday. Because he has a large number of votes, proposals that Mr Buffett opposes are typically defeated.
When he responded to the climate proposal on Saturday, he stressed once again that Berkshire Hathaway Energy was making major investments in renewable energy projects. But those behind the proposal said they wanted Berkshire to provide climate revelations for the whole company, not just parts of the conglomerate. “What we’re asking for is a complex picture,” said Timothy Youmans, director of EOS at Federated Hermes in North America, which sponsored the climate proposal.
Peter Eavis contributed with reporting.