Fifty money managers have used Securities and Exchange Commission rules to keep confidential their stakes in certain companies so far this year, an analysis of securities filings shows.

The longstanding practice got a new burst of attention last month when billionaire Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. disclosed a $10.7 billion bet on International Business Machines Corp.

The Omaha, Neb., conglomerate had been secretly accumulating the shares since March, twice receiving an exemption from the SEC on a 36-year-old law that requires investment firms owning more than $100 million in publicly traded stocks to disclose their holdings quarterly.

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Critics of such confidentiality say the SEC should have to explain more about why certain investors can keep their moves secret. The process “raises the question: Is this really right? Is this really fair treatment?” said John Rogers, president and chief executive of the CFA Institute, a trade group for investment professionals.

So far this year, the 50 money managers who hid at least some of their holdings from public disclosure sought confidential treatment on a total of 154 quarterly filings, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal. The investors range from Mr. Buffett to Deutsche Bank AG to firms run by activist investors Carl Icahn and Nelson Peltz.

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