A judge in Delaware ruled today that Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) would not have to face a lawsuit after trades made by David Sokol in December 2010. The former Buffett lieutenant had purchased the stock before recommending it to his CEO and having $9 billion of company funds invested in it. The allegations resulting from the trade led directly to Sokol’s stepping down. The lawsuit was filed against both David Sokol and Warren Buffett.
It claimed wrongdoing in the trades made by Sokol. The plaintiff was a Berkshire Shareholder Mason Kirby who sought to restore the firms name by stripping away Sokol’s profits and award damages.
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The judge through the complaint out today, almost one year after Sokol’s resignation, due to the lack of proof provided by the plaintiff that the board of Berkshire Hathaway could not bring a suit itself. Such proof is required for a shareholder to take action under Delaware law. The suit was however thrown out without prejudice. This means the suit could reasonably be brought again. Sokhol’s profit from the deal was $3 million.
The trade involved a company called Lubrizol. That company was recommended to Sokhol during meetings with Citigroup officials in February and December 2010. After the December meeting Sokol purchased almost 100,000 shares in the company little over a months before Berkshire Hathaway buys the firm, resulting in instantaneous gains for Sokol.
In the days after the trade had gone through Buffett said he eventually learned of the situation involving the trade made by Sokol. Sokol resigned from his post in Berkshire Hathaway in late March of last year less than three weeks after Buffett’s purchase of Lubrizol Inc.
Buffett stated in a letter that neither he nor Sokol felt that the trades were illegal. In a later statement, made at the Berkshire Hathaway annual conference, Buffett called the trades inexcusable, and took a large portion of the blame onto himself at least verbally.
Before his fall at the hands of this deal Sokol was widely tipped as a probable successor to Mr. Buffett. His tenure at the company involved a stint at NetJets the shared ownership private jet provider.
At the helm of that company he oversaw a massive turnaround in fortunes that resulted in a large uptick in value for Berkshire Hathaway. On leaving the firm he said his intention was to build his own smaller version of Berkshire for his family.