On Buffett and reading the filings…

May 3, 2011

We’re still recovering from South by Southwest so we didn’t make it to Omaha this past weekend for Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK.A) annual meeting. But several footnoted readers who were there have pinged us over the past few days about some comments that Warren Buffett made on reading SEC filings.

Let’s just say that Sonya, Theo and I are in good company when it comes to reading the filings. Unlike Buffett, we actually know how to operate our printers (see pg. 8 in this transcript for the reference) though if we were to actually print out copies of everything that we read, we’d have to form some joint-venture with the Arbor Day Foundation.

During the lengthy Q&A over l’Affaire Sokol, Buffett made two comments about reading SEC filings (for full and extensive coverage of the meeting, be sure to visit this page on Morningstar.com), both of which were music to our respective ears. Here’s the first snip:

And the 10K and the 10Q that got printed out on Saturday have that date on them, the 15th, when I looked at Lubrizol for the first time.You might be interested in knowing I’ve been looking up 10Ks and 10Qs for 20 or 30 years, but I don’t know how to print them out.

But it was this comment — it’s on page 15 of the transcript — that really warmed our hearts:

The most interesting part of every proxy statement is something that says — it’s basically the history of the transaction, and it’s — it’s the first thing I read on any deal because it gives you a blow-by-blow of what has taken place.

Needless to say, that’s one of the first sections we read whenever we come across a merger proxy! Here’s an early one that we footnoted all the way back in 2006. That prompted our good friend Broc Romanek to tweet that footnoted and Buffett were probably the only two people in the world that actually read these things, which Broc said “is not a shabby book club”. Indeed.

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