Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) has sold off two short line railroads it reportedly didn’t know it owned. The company apparently discovered that it owned those two railroads just a few months ago after its acquisition of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) railroad.
Regulators told Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) that the company must sell both railroads, which it discovered and reported to regulators in September. An attorney for BNSF railroad told regulators that Berkshire likely overlooked the two railroads because of how small they are. One of the two railroads is only 12 miles long and is located in Oregon. The other is six miles long and serves a coal plant in Iowa.
None of the companies who purchased the two short lines own other railroads, so they went through the Surface Transportation Board easily. The board is in charge of reviewing all mergers of railroad companies, as well as purchases, disputes over rates and construction.
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If Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (NYSE:BRK.A) (NYSE:BRK.B) had disclosed the ownership of those two railroads when it bought Burlington Northern Santa Fe, then regulators would have had to examine the purchase more carefully before approving it. Warren Buffett, the well-known director of Berkshire Hathaway, reportedly sold the company’s Union Pacific Corporation (NYSE:UNP) and Norfolk Southern Corp. (NYSE:NSC) shares in order to avoid issues with regulators. He had planned to sell the two railroads in question by the end of the year, and on Wednesday he announced that he had done so ahead of schedule.