Warren Buffett Gets A Raise
OMAHA, Neb. — None of Berkshire Hathaway's top executives received big raises last year, and the chief financial officer earned nearly twice as much as his more famous boss, Warren Buffett.
But that's exactly as Buffett wishes, and is typical for the company's compensation plan.
The chairman and chief executive of the Omaha, Neb.-based company has for more than 25 years insisted that his salary remain at $100,000, and the 1 percent increase in his $524,946 total compensation came from his security costs.
Berkshire's CFO Marc Hamburg compensation grew 6 percent to $924,750 in 2010.
Buffett favors simple compensation arrangements with incentives tied to things that executives can control.
Many items The Associated Press routinely includes in its executive compensation calculations don't exist at Berkshire, including bonuses, performance-related bonuses, above-market returns on deferred compensation and the estimated value of stock options and awards granted during the year.
The proxy Berkshire filed Friday also revealed a shareholder proposal that would require the company to establish goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the utilities it owns through its MidAmerican Energy subsidiary.
The board, which owns enough Berkshire stock to control 38 percent of the voting power, opposes the proposal.
"Establishing such reduction goals at this time as additional EPA regulation of greenhouse gases are being developed would be contrary to the responsibilities of our rate-regulated utilities and to our customers whose utility bills could be dramatically affected," Berkshire's board said in the proxy statement.
Shareholder Emily Coward, who owns 62 Class A shares, said she believes Berkshire would be wise to act now instead of waiting for regulations.
"Most independent economists and scientists conclude that the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions now, is far lower than the costs of mitigating greenhouse gas-caused damage later," Coward said in the filing. "In this regard, we believe that long-term Berkshire shareholders are best served by present action."
No one answered a number listed for Coward on Friday morning.
Berkshire officials did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
The biggest piece of Buffett's compensation is the amount the company spent on personal and home security for him. Those security costs increased slightly to $349,946 in 2010 from $344,490 the previous year.
Berkshire's board said in the proxy that part of why Buffett's security expenses appear large is that the company doesn't maintain a security force at its 21-person headquarters in Omaha, so the charges are considered a perk.
Berkshire's profits grew significantly in 2010 thanks to the acquisition of Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, better results at Berkshire's other subsidiaries and a $1.9 billion paper gain on investments and derivatives. The company said last month that its 2010 net income jumped 61 percent to $12.97 billion on revenue of $136.2 billion.
In just the fourth quarter, Berkshire's net income grew 43 percent to $4.38 billion on revenue of $36.2 billion.
Buffett again received $75,000 in director's fees from the Washington Post Co., which Berkshire discloses because it holds a significant stake in the company. But Buffett announced in January that he plans to leave the Washington Post's board when his term expires in May, so that director pay will be eliminated.
Berkshire Vice Chairman Charlie Munger's compensation remained unchanged in 2010. Munger, who runs Berkshire's Wesco Financial unit, received only a $100,000 salary – the same as Buffett's. Berkshire is in the process of acquiring the 19.9 percent of Wesco shares it doesn't already own to make the Pasadena, Calif., company a wholly owned subsidiary.
Both Buffett and Munger reimbursed Berkshire again last year to cover any personal costs, such as postage or calls the company may have paid for. Buffett paid the company $50,000, and Munger reimbursed Berkshire $5,500.
Berkshire owns roughly 80 subsidiaries, including clothing, furniture, jewelry and corporate jet firms, but its insurance and utility businesses typically account for more than half of the company's net income. It also has major investments in such companies as Coca-Cola Co. and Wells Fargo & Co.
Berkshire Hathaway Inc.: www.berkshirehathaway.com