Warren Buffett’s right-hand man issued a warning to stock-market speculators, criticized the trading platforms enabling them, and blasted SPACs at the Daily Journal annual meeting on Wednesday.
Charlie Munger, the vice-chairman of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is also the chairman of Daily Journal, a newspaper publisher and software developer.
Here are the meeting highlights. We’ll be updating them as the meeting continues.
Munger acknowledged that periods of mass speculation occur from time to time, and said his normal policy was to “ride them out.” He cautioned amateur investors and day traders against acting recklessly.
“Shareholders should be more sensible and not crowd into stocks and just buy them because they’re going up and they like to gamble,” Munger said. “That’s a very dangerous way to invest.”
Munger also compared the GameStop short squeeze in January to people gambling at the racetrack.
“That’s the kind of thing that happens when you get people who gamble the way they would betting on racehorses,” he said.
“It’s very dangerous and it’s really stupid to have a culture to encourage gambling in stocks,” he continued. “Of course that is going to cause trouble and it did.”
Munger also called out Robinhood and other trading platforms for “luring” novice investors into speculating on stocks.
“It’s a dirty way to make money and I think we’re crazy to allow it,” Munger said. “All this activity is regrettable, I think civilizations would be better without it.”
“Nobody should believe that Robinhood’s trades are free,” Munger said, adding that their practise of selling order flow was “dishonorable.”
The 97-year-old also called out the boom in special-purpose acquisition vehicles (SPACs), which offer an alternative way to go public by listing then acquiring a private company.
“Crazy speculation in enterprises not even found or picked out yet is a sign of an irritating bubble,” he said. “The investment banking profession will sell shit as long as shit can be sold.”
“I think it must end badly but I don’t know when,” he added.
“There’s no question that Wells Fargo has disappointed longtime investors like Berkshire. Because the old management were not consciously malevolent or thieving but they had terrible judgment.
“I don’t think bitcoin’s going to end up as the medium of exchange for the world. It’s too volatile.
It’s kind of an artificial substitute for gold.”
“People really trust Costco to deliver enormous values and that is why Costco presents some danger to Amazon. They’ve got a better reputation for providing value than practically anyone including Amazon.”
Tesla and bitcoin
Munger was asked to choose the more astounding event, the stratospheric rise in bitcoin’s value or the astronomical rise in Tesla’s stock price over the past year.
He quoted author Samuel Johnson, who when presented with two choices, said, “I can’t decide the order of precedency between a flea and a louse.”
“I don’t know which is worse,” he added.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma
“I think Jack Ma was very arrogant to be telling the Chinese government how dumb they are. Considering their system that is not what he should have been doing.”
The rich getting richer during the pandemic
“That’s a misplaced concern. Nobody’s was trying to make the rich richer, that was an accidental byproduct of trying to save the economy under terrible conditions. It was probably wise that we acted exactly as we did.”