Warren Buffett was never briefed on the structure of a 2000 reinsurance transaction between
General Re unit and
American International Group
that is at the center of a widening regulatory probe, Berkshire says.
Buffett never was told about "any improper use or purpose" of the deal, the company said in a statement Tuesday. The company expects to make no financial restatements and said it's cooperating with investigators.
The statement comes as regulators prepare to interview the Berkshire CEO about the transaction, which is being scrutinized by the
Securities and Exchange Commission
and New York attorney general's office.
The Wall Street Journal
reported Tuesday that Buffett will be questioned about "documents and witnesses" that show he was involved in the transaction at an early stage.
In the statement, Berkshire denied several elements of the story, including an assertion that Buffett typically speaks with the heads of Berkshire's business units late each afternoon.
"With the exception of
Berkshire reinsurance group President Ajit Jain, Mr. Buffett speaks infrequently with the Berkshire Hathaway business managers and leaves the operating decisions for the business units to the individual managers, a policy publicly reported regularly since 1984," the Berkshire statement said.
Earlier Tuesday, AIG said its longtime guiding hand, Maurice Greenberg, agreed to retire as chairman, severing most of his ties to the insurance industry behemoth. Greenberg was stripped of his CEO title earlier this month. At both AIG and Berkshire, investigators are interested in how much each CEO knew of the 2000 reinsurance deal, which regulators suspect might have amounted to accounting manipulation to boost AIG's reserves improperly.
The Berkshire statement also addresses reports involving an investigation in Australia of its National Indemnity subsidiary. That probe centers on whether a company called FAI used a so-called finite reinsurance policy to burnish its teetering financial condition just before it was acquired by doomed Australian conglomerate H.I.H. in 1998.
The New York Times
reported that National Indemnity sold a policy to FAI that included a "side letter" prohibiting the company from seeking money from the Berkshire unit for three years.
In its statement, Berkshire said: "No such side letter existed or was used. Gen Re, a Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary since December 1998, did use a side letter in a transaction with H.I.H., a transaction entered into well before Gen Re was acquired by Berkshire Hathaway."