Kass' Q&A Left Me Wanting More
The next question? A simple "What else concerns you about Berkshire?," when the reporter should have said: "Wait a doggone moment."
Fact is, because a company is overperforming to a smaller degree is hardly reason to short. Remember, losses are potentially unlimited when you short. Don't you want to short a company that is going to flat-out underperform, not one that is in any comparative underperformance range?
Moreover, I'll let the bald claim that money managers are smarter now than they were pass, though I must add that I am disappointed that my spiritual brother in overly critical thought buys into such a sentimental claim of human progress.
More important is the statement -- again, left unchallenged because of the interview format -- that Berkshire's slowing in results has to do with comparisons against money managers who are brainier because they are richer.Here's where any cub reporter would chime in and ask: Doesn't it have to do with competition in acquisitions from private-equity firms, who pretty much had access to free money in the past decade because of low interest rates and were buying everything not nailed down? This is why Buffett, no fool and ever patient, sat on a pile of cash a mile high. He even made his first international acquisition -- in Israel -- and appears to be making one of his first serious forays into Europe. Did the fact that he didn't chase after the private-equity cowboys stateside mean short-term performance in the past few years wasn't as great as it could have been? Well, sure. But does it mean that Berkshire is set up better for the future than the impatient overpayers, many of whom are already crashing and burning? Of course. And it doesn't have anything to do with the compensation structure of the hedge-fund industry.
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