Daily Journal’s annual shareholder meeting usually involves Berkshire Hathaway’s vice chairman, Charlie Munger, giving his overview of things economic. This Valentine’s Day, the 94-year-old right-hand man of Warren Buffett took the opportunity to savage the world’s most popular cryptocurrency, bitcoin.
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If it’s not a religious affair, it sure has that feel. The grand cardinal of retail finance, Charlie Munger, was plopped into a chair, and assembled hordes gathered to hear investment wisdom from the Oracle of Omaha’s saintly priest. To say Mr. Munger is a successful investor is to place too general praise on the man: arguably he is among the most bankable gurus of all time.
From Los Angeles, Mr. Munger came right out with it: “I never considered for one second having anything to do with [bitcoin], I detested it the minute it had been raised. The more popular it got, the more I hated it. It’s just disgusting that people have been taken in by this.”
The focus of his remarks was not bitcoin per se, as the question and answer period, interview style, lasted over two hours. He discussed a myriad of economy related questions and subjects, including regulating banks such as Wells Fargo, Berkshire Hathaway’s large stock holding of nearly 30 billion dollars. There, Mr. Munger came to the embattled bank’s defense, suggesting government regulators had gone far enough in efforts to get it to right past wrongs; indeed, Mr. Munger suggested regulators had done too much. Wells Fargo was accused of creating fake accounts to buttress numbers, adding automobile insurance charges to customers who didn’t ask, and monkeying with mortgage extensions.
Tension Between Old and New
When it came to bitcoin, however, “Our more relaxed approach is wrong”, he spat. “The right answer is to step on it hard. It’s the government’s job,” he urged, characterizing it as a “noxious poison.” He seemed to approve of alternative payment systems such as We Chat, the popular smartphone application based in China. But bitcoin, he said, was an affliction of “everyone [wanting] easy money,” and “[hoped] to God” the future generation doesn’t embrace it, as it is “totally asinine.”
Berkshire Hathaway’s stock price trades routinely at over $300,000, and that’s not a misprint. The firm is notoriously tech-phobic, having sat out plenty of the technology boom over the last quarter century. Mr. Munger has been involved with the company for over four decades, championing value investing – looking long term at good companies an investor can understand.
For seasoned investors such as Mr. Munger, bitcoin is too abstract. Its lack of fundamentals as Mr. Munger understands them – no corporate offices, no accountable board, no large regulatory apparatus, etc. – can only spell bitcoin’s doom. It’s a classic division among investors these days, between those who’re stuck in old world success enough to fail in appreciation of what just might be a real changing of the financial guard.
What do you think of Mr. Munger’s comments? Let us know in the comments section below.
Images courtesy of Pixabay, Berkshire Hathaway.
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