Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway fined

By Kevin G. Hall

McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Warren E. Buffett may soon be almost $1 million poorer.

Well sort of. The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice announced an $896,000 proposed settlement Wednesday with Buffett’s investment holding company Berkshire Hathaway Inc.

The two federal agencies filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia a proposed settlement, imposing the maximum civil penalty possible. The final judgment is subject to court approval.

The settlement with Berkshire Hathaway involves allegations that it violated pre-merger reporting laws in connection with its 2013 purchase of building products giant USG Corp.

“Although we may not seek penalties for every in inadvertent error, we will enforce the rules when the same party makes additional mistakes after promises of improved oversight,” Deborah Feinstein, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition, said in a statement announcing the settlement.

The FTC alleged that Berkshire Hathaway failed to notify regulators when it changed convertible notes it owned in USG into 21.4 million voting securities, pushing the value of its USG holdings over a pre-merger reporting threshold.

The company subsequently made a corrective filing with regulators and acknowledged it should have reported the conversion into voting securities. Normally that might be forgiven, but it came six months after Berkshire Hathaway made a similar corrective filing tied to its 2013 purchase of $41 million worth of voting securities in Symetra Financial Corp.

Berkshire Hathaway is a Delaware corporation with headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. The settlement is a blemish for Buffett, whose old-fashioned wit and uncanny business sense have earned him the nickname The Oracle of Omaha.