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CEO Porn Loses Allure After Buffett Revelation

Buffett is keenly aware of his public image so he feeds this perception, and that allows us to overlook stuff -- like the Sokol trade. He overreached there, but in other areas he has kept the media on his side to an extent that is remarkable even by CEO porn standards. And the media hasn't much cared one way or the other.

For years before his wife's death in 2004, for example, Buffett lived with a woman who wasn't his wife. It was Buffett, so no one made much of a fuss. A prominent journalist has ghostwritten his letter to investors for years. Ditto. No big deal. These are petty details, so it doesn't matter, and the same live-and-let-live attitude has carried over to non-petty details.

His management of Berkshire is hardly a model of good corporate governance. As Joe Nocera pointed out over the weekend, the holding company is thinly staffed and his board of directors is dominated by cronies. Shareholders let him because he is Warren Buffett -- and so does the media. In fact, shareholders were feeling so warm and fuzzy about their guru at the annual meeting that nobody asked him if Sokol had acquired shares in other Berkshire deal stocks (as Allan Dodds Frank pointed out yesterday).

Hopefully that will change because of the Sokol scandal. Hopefully the media, and his cult of shareholders, has learned its lesson. I doubt it, so hopefully a few rotten apples in the press corps will continue to hold Buffett's feet to the fire.

Gary Weiss has covered Wall Street wrongdoing for almost a quarter century. His coverage of stock fraud at BusinessWeek won many awards, and included a cover story, �The Mob on Wall Street,� which exposed mob infiltration of brokerages. He uncovered the Salomon Brothers bond-trading scandal, and wrote extensively on the dangers posed by hedge funds, Internet fraud and out-of-control leverage. He was a contributing editor at Conde Nast Porfolio, writing about the people most intimately involved in the financial crisis, from Timothy Geithner to Bernard Madoff. His book "Born to Steal" (Warner Books: 2003), described the Mafia's takeover of brokerage houses in the 1990s. "Wall Street Versus America" (Portfolio: 2006) was an account of investor rip-offs. He blogs at garyweiss.blogspot.com.
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