Buffett, 91, spoke at length during his annual shareholder meeting Saturday about one of his favorite targets for criticism: investment banks and brokerages.
“Wall Street makes money, one way or another, catching the crumbs that fall off the table of capitalism,” Buffett said. “They don’t make money unless people do things, and they get a piece of them. They make a lot more money when people are gambling than when they are investing.”
Buffett bemoaned that large American companies have “became poker chips” for market speculation. He cited soaring use of call options, saying that brokers make more money from these bets than simple investing.
Still, the situation can result in market dislocations that give Berkshire Hathaway an opportunity, he said. Buffett said that Berkshire spent an incredible $41 billion on stocks in the first quarter, unleashing his company’s cash hoard after an extended lull. Some $7 billion of that went to snap up shares of Occidental, bringing up his stake to more than 14% of the oil producer’s shares.
“That’s why markets do crazy things, and occasionally Berkshire gets a chance to do something,” Buffett said.
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