The Berkshire Hathaway Annual shareholder meeting which, saw a return of both Warren Buffett and his perpetual sidekick, Charlie Munger, to the podium after a one year covid hiatus, is over after almost six grueling hours of back and forth between the two billionaires, Becky Quick, and a cast of supporting characters, most of whom are probably also billionaires. We will do a full post-mortem shortly of all the highlights, but there were a handful of funny episodes (usually involving the traditionally outspoken Charlie Munger) as well as a selection of cringeworthy moments (also involving Munger).
One of these involved a lengthy discussion of how investing has changed in the past year, specifically with the flood of new, young retail traders pursuing some extremely crappy stocks whose outperformance has blown away Berkshire A shares with their modest 19% return.
However, instead of offering some support to these newly-hatched capitalists who dream of achieving Buffett's success, however on a far more truncated timeframe, Charlie Munger had some stark words of discouragement when it comes to the next generation seeking to master the stock market.
“Bernie Sanders has basically won," the 97-year old said. "He did it by accident, but he won."
Munger then followed up with a sad truth which the largest US generation will hate to hear: "the millennial generation is going to have a hell of a time getting rich compared to our generation" the billionaire said, referring to its engagement with the stock market, where for now at least, millennials appear to be winning but Munger is confident that it will all end in tears.
Munger then slammed the retail investing euphoria and froth seen across multiple assets, saying we have a lot to be ashamed of for current conditions. “It’s not just stupid, it’s shameful,” he says describing what’s going on.
Buffett also piped up and countered that it’s not that shameful for the people who are doing it -- gambling’s a human instinct, to which Munger then clarifies that he doesn’t mind the poor that gamble but he doesn’t like the professionals that push them into it.
Buffett then quoted Keynes about speculators and bubbles, saying we’ve had a lot of people in the casino in the past year, where people are day trading and basically gambling (adding there’s nothing wrong with gamblers). The gambling impulse is very strong worldwide and sometimes it gets an enormous shove. But Buffett also warns that gambling "creates its own reality for a while and no one’s going to tell you when the clock strikes 12 and it all turns to pumpkin and mice."
Asked how Berkshire's performance compares to some of the supernova stocks in the past year, the billionaire said that when the competition is playing foolishly with other peoples’ money or their own, they’re going to beat Berkshire... the implication of course being that when everything crashes, Buffett will eventually come out on top again.
Watch a replay of the full shareholder meeting here. Considering the ages of the two hosts, it may well be the final one for either (or both) of them.