What Sarbanes-Oxley Cost Warren Buffet

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You know sometimes you walk into a restaurant and you see a couple of people you know. You stroll by the table to say hello and immediately you get that feeling—the one that tells you that you are interrupting something. Something intimate. This isn't just a dinner. Not just friends out for drinks. This is a date. You are making it awkward.
That's how we felt when we recently ran into a certain CNBC personality and a well-known financial type. No. Not that one. We're talking about Liz Claman and Warren Buffett, who we ran into chatting on CNBC as we passed the television on the way to where we keep the whiskey. (Sure it's only 11 am but we've got one of those phantom hangovers where we feel like crap despite only drinking half a bottle of red last night. Hair of the dog that bit us in our dreams.) Those two are mighty close these days.
What was the point of all this? Oh, right. Grandpa Buffett let loose with an interesting figure this morning. According to Buffett, Berkshire-Hathaway spent $24 million on auditing this year, a figure he says would have been closer to $10 million without Sarbanes-Oxley. This is just one, anecdotal data point but still. That's an enormous cost multiplyer. If SarbOx is costing anything like this with many other companies, we're looking at a serious wealth transfer because of a regulation whose benefits are hard to quantify. Does anyone really think SarbOx is making investors 2.4 times safer?

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