From Whitney’s latest email to investors. Presented without comment.
1) On May 6th I will be attending my 19th consecutive Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha. If you’re going to be there, I’d like to invite you to two events on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon, both at the Omaha Hilton (I’m not sure which rooms; there will be signs):
- a) My friend Chuck Gillman and I are hosting our annual cocktail party from 8pm-midnight on Friday, May 5th. No agenda, no speeches, no dress code – just come, enjoy the drinks and snacks, and meet other value investors.
- b) Chuck and I are also sponsoring a casual get-together immediately following the annual meeting (~3:30) on Saturday, May 6th – just walk across the street or take the skybridge to the Hilton. It will end around 6pm.
To RSVP for either of these events, please email Ram at [email protected] and include:
- Which event(s) you plan to attend
- Your name as you wish it to appear on your nametag
- Your city as you wish it to appear on your nametag
I look forward to seeing you!
2) Speaking of Berkshire, following up on Charlie Munger’s Daily Journal meeting last month (full video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=BLctqhNClqY&feature=youtu.be), Munger hung around for more than an hour after the meeting and took questions from the groupies (I say that affectionately, not pejoratively) who swarmed him. Alas, I didn’t know he’d do this so I missed it, but fortunately one of the groupies videoed it and posted links to 22 clips here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YR_5el2IuM&list=PL4vpPkFFra2tjDtIJ69Ju4SnwQyNvSmIG.
Once the official meeting was over, Munger stopped being so diplomatic. When asked about his supposed friendship with billionaire supermarket magnate Ron Burkle, he replies, “I have not seen Ron Burkle in 35 years. He always tells people what a good friend he is of mine. I liked Ron Burkle’s father – he was our last customer for Trading Stamps. I liked Ron when he was eager, but Ron, when he’s made a lot of money, is a bit insufferable. He’s my good friend if you listen to him. The one he really knows is Bill Clinton because he furnished him with girls!” [Munger is referring to this story: www.vanityfair.com/news/2008/07/clinton200807] He talks about Mike Pearson and Valeant here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOdHcziVbMo&feature=youtu.be.
3) Speaking of slimy companies Munger has heaped scorn upon, the critically acclaimed (100% on Rotten Tomatoes and 8.8/10 on IMDb) documentary about Herbalife (which I remain short), Betting on Zero, opens in a handful of theaters nationwide tomorrow (here is a list of theaters). I’ve seen it and it’s outstanding! It makes it so clear what a pyramid scheme Herbalife is and the harm it’s doing to so many of its distributors. You can watch the 2-min trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=epNmVLtpkZA
4) Michelle Celarier with a spot-on article (sadly) about Herbalife and its peers benefitting from the Trump administration, which is full of MLM scammers (starting at the top):
What this all adds up to, in the eyes of opponents and supporters, is a benign era for MLMs. Regulating these companies, with their legions of independent salespeople, is difficult for the toughest regulatory regimes. And the Trump era will be anything but that. “Anybody who would continue to expect or hope for law enforcement regarding financial schemes of this type would be living in a dream world,” said Robert FitzPatrick, the president of the watchdog Pyramid Scheme Alert. “[MLMs] are going to gain protection.”
FitzPatrick will get no quarrel from the industry’s biggest fans. “We think that with the new administration you can forget any aggressive action vs. MLMs,” industry analyst and Herbalife shareholder Tim Ramey wrote in a note to clients in January. “When Betsy DeVos was named to the Trump Cabinet we took that as a very strong signal that the Trump administration had no real issue with the MLM world. … You don’t put Betsy DeVos in your cabinet and then go out and try to put [Herbalife] out of business. We are in a post-regulatory world.”
5) Speaking of activist shorting: at one time only a handful of people were doing it (Chanos, Asensio, Rocker, Ackman, Einhorn, and yours truly), but in recent years it’s become so widespread that I can’t keep track of it, so I use a very useful service, Activist Insight, which follows, sends immediate alerts about, and maintains archives of every activist short campaign. For a free trial, please contact Jim Bilodeau at [email protected] and use my name for a 10% discount (I get a credit toward my subscription cost for each of my friends who signs up).
6) Here’s a link to a web site that has posted Q4/annual investor letters from ~100 funds, including Greenlight, Pershing Sq., Third Point and Baupost: https://www.reddit.com/r/SecurityAnalysis/comments/5nbic9/q4_2016_letters_and_reports/
Editor's note we have a better list here 2016 Hedge Fund Letters
7) My views on Trump are well known, but it’s possible that he could be good for the economy and/or stocks, at least for a while. Here’s an article (in the NYT no less!) that explains how:
The stock market reached yet another new high on Wednesday, the latest development to make a mockery of what savvy economic commentators thought they knew about the world.
Consider how things looked one year ago. The world economy seemed hopelessly trapped in a cycle of low growth and inflation. Markets recoiled at the mere possibility that the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates. Populist political insurgencies seemed to threaten yet more financial market chaos.
Now, interest rates and inflation forecasts have risen substantially from last winter’s lows; financial markets are shrugging off — or even rallying at the possibility of — imminent Fed rate increases; and it is all taking place during Donald J. Trump’s presidency.
An economy that seemed locked in some form of “secular stagnation” or “new normal” is at long last showing some signs of being in something closer to an “old normal.” The United States manufacturing sector is showing strength, and the broader mix of market and economic data from around the world in the last few months also points to a world where a vicious economic cycle isn’t looking quite as scary and may even be ending.
There can be no assurance that this pattern will continue, and there are some things to worry about on the horizon, not least that the Trump administration could follow through on some of its threats to disrupt global trade and diplomatic relations. Long-term interest rates remain low by historical standards across most of the world, suggesting that global bond investors aren’t fully buying into a return to stronger, more consistent growth.
But the pivot since Election Day is huge.
8) Here’s another article along the same lines, citing the rise in small business confidence:
“And now we have seen this huge spike in small-business confidence since the election,” Mr. Korzenik said, pointing to a chart. “So I have to ask you: Do you feel more confident now?”
There was a moment of silence, broken only by a howling northwestern Ohio wind that rattled the floor-to-ceiling windows in the bank’s boardroom.
Then, with rapid-fire speed, came the responses.