Economy

Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger Have Some Thoughts on the Pandemic, China, Robinhood and More

In a wide-ranging interview with CNBC, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger discussed the pandemic, Robinhood, Archegos and a host of other issues. In keeping with Buffett’s sobriquet as the Oracle of Omaha, some of Buffett’s and Munger’s comments were positively oracular.

Asked about Credit Suisse’s $5.5 billion loss on its dealings with Archegos Capital, Munger said:

Think of how massively stupid that was. And of course, it was the lure of the really easy money that the idiot was paying you, being the prime broker for a jerk. … [T]he world was shouting at [the bank], “Crook. Fool.” And they didn’t listen. They thought, “This is where the easy money is, crooks and fools.”

Buffett added, “[W]e learned a long time ago is that you can’t make a good deal with a bad person.” Ouch.

Munger also said that he approved of the way the Chinese government has been slapping down some of its most successful entrepreneurs, like Alibaba founder Jack Ma:

[Ma] basically gave a speech when he said to a, to a one-party state, “Well, you guys are a buncha jerks, don’t know what you’re doing. And I know what I’m doing, and I’m gonna do it better.” And he was gonna wade into banking and no rules and just do whatever he pleased. …

Communists did the right thing. They just called in Jack Ma and say,

“You aren’t gonna do it, sonny.” And, and I wish we had a, I don’t want the, all of the Chinese system, but I certainly would like to have the financial part of it in my own country.”

The 97-year-old Munger, who appears to have done much of the talking, had some harsh words for Robinhood as well:

Well, Robinhood is beneath contempt. … [I]t’s a gambling parlor masquerading as a respectable business.

Buffet added: “[Robinhood] is not encouraging people to buy a very, very, very low-cost index fund and hold it for 50 years. I will guarantee you that you will not walk in there, get that advice. Instead, you’ll get advice on how you can trade options.”

Munger is a fan of Zoom: “I have fallen in love with Zoom.” Buffett, however, is not:

I don’t see any plus to it, particularly, …  I did it once or twice, and they had a whole screen of people that, that it, I just didn’t figure it was adding to the experience. I’d rather have my, you know, feet on the desk, and, and I, I find the telephone a very satisfactory instrument, I mean.

Both men commented on how the COVID-19 pandemic will change people’s lives. Here’s Munger:

Well, I think a lot of business travel will never come back. Just corporation after corporation deciding one meeting a year, two meetings a year in person, and the rest Zoom. And I think that’s here to stay. And, of course, what’s happened to office demand is just think of the agonies in that field now. And a lot of people have found they don’t need to be there. I think all kinds of things are gonna happen that, that we’ll be, we don’t go back to what we did before.

Buffett added:

And it’s not over. I mean, in, in terms of the unpredictability. And in terms of the economic, it’s been very unpredictable, but it’s worked out better than people anticipated for most people and most businesses. And it’s just, for no fault of their own, it’s just decimated all kinds of people in their hopes. And that, and, and those we want to, you know, the government should be helping–

A full transcript of the interview is available on the CNBC website.