Every year, investors flock to “Woodstock for Capitalists”—the shareholders’ meeting for Berkshire Hathaway in hopes of posing a burning question to the Oracle of Omaha himself.
Over 30,000 people attend the meeting, but only about 50 questions are allowed at the Q+A session with Warren Buffett. In years past, attendees made a sport of racing to the mic—so three years ago, Buffett devised a raffle system that picked names at random from 13 different mic stations.
Well, Fidelity Investments—which owns a 2% share of Berkshire—got tired of hearing shallow questions about Buffett’s eating habits and book pick of the year, so they devised a scheme to increase the chances of getting their own questions (about actual investing!) in, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Even Buffett admits it. “There’s no question they figured out how to game the system,” he told the WSJ.
It was a simple game of chance—so Fidelity increased the odds. They sent over 40 representatives to the investor meeting this year, and they spread out to enter the question raffle at the different stations. Up to 900 individuals entered the drawing, according to the WSJ.
It wasn’t rocket science, but Fidelity’s plan worked: Representatives from the Boston-based firm got to ask six out of 27 questions allocated to the crowd, or more than one out of five questions. Following the custom of past meetings, those that took the microphone identified themselves by their name and hometown, without mentioning their employer. Two more questions were asked on the firm’s behalf by the journalists, getting Fidelity a total of eight out of 54 questions.
Buffett doesn’t fault Fidelity for what they did, and even admits that he might’ve done the same thing when he was younger. But, he is striking back and will be changing the questioning system for 2012. That change may be one of several new additional to the gather next year—Wall Street analysts covering Berkshire will also be in attendance for the first time in 2012 too.
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