Warren Buffett's Philosophy On Investing In Banks

In light of last week's surprise announcement of Buffett's bailout redux of Bank of America (the first one being Goldman back in 2008), and following today's even more surprising objection by the FDIC which threatens to scuttle the Bank of Ameria settlement and force Bank of Countrywide Lynch to raise far more capital, pushing Warren to double down on his investment throwin more good money after bad, especially if the legal case moves from an Article 77-friendly NY state court to Federal, here are the philosophical thoughts from the Berkshire's oracles contained, in his "Collected Writings", on his desire to put money into banks.

And we quote:

The banking business is no favorite of ours. When assets are twenty times equity-a common ratio in this industry-mistakes that involve only a small portion of assets can destroy a major portion of equity. And mistakes have been the rule rather than the exception at many major banks. Most have resulted from a managerial failing that we described last year when discussing the "institutional imperative:" the tendency of executives to mindlessly imitate the behavior of their peers, no matter how foolish it may be to do so. In their lending, many bankers played follow-the-Ieader with lemming-like zeal; now they are experiencing a lemming-like fate.


Because leverage of 20:1 magnifies the effects of managerial strengths and weaknesses, we have no interest in purchasing shares of a poorly-managed bank at a "cheap" price. Instead, our only interest is in buying into well-managed banks at fair prices.

Perhaps a better title for this post would "Buffett on lemmings"...

Full humorous musings:


h/t Geoffrey Batt