The COVID-19 epidemic has been particularly hard on the elderly. Not only does it kill them in distressingly large numbers, but in order to keep it from doing so, we have to do even more of something which we’re already pretty good at doing as a society generally: Ignoring them to molder away in lonely isolation with minimal if any human contact. As such, we’re told to check in on our older friends, family and neighbors. Give them a call. Wave to them from the street. Buy them so groceries or pick up their meds or whatever else we can do at a safe distance.
Surely hordes of corporate executives must be calling Berkshire begging for capital?
“No, they aren’t,” said Mr. Munger. “The typical reaction is that people are frozen. Take the airlines. They don’t know what the hell’s doing. They’re all negotiating with the government, but they’re not calling Warren. They’re frozen. They’ve never seen anything like it. Their playbook does not have this as a possibility.”
He repeated for emphasis, “Everybody’s just frozen. And the phone is not ringing off the hook. Everybody’s just frozen in the position they’re in.”
That being said, since this nice Wall Street Journal reporter decided to check in on old Charlie, he thought he’d ask the Berkshire vice chairman what he’s been up to these days. The answer is, contra the immoral Bill Ackman, not a whole hell of a lot.
“We just want to get through the typhoon, and we’d rather come out of it with a whole lot of liquidity. We’re not playing, ‘Oh goody, goody, everything’s going to hell, let’s plunge 100% of the reserves [into buying businesses].’”
He added, “Warren wants to keep Berkshire safe for people who have 90% of their net worth invested in it. We’re always going to be on the safe side. That doesn’t mean we couldn’t do something pretty aggressive or seize some opportunity. But basically we will be fairly conservative. And we’ll emerge on the other side very strong.”
So, please, desperate executives, give Charlie Munger a call and ask for some money. He’ll say “no,” but if you don’t, he’ll have enough time and money to make sure no undergraduate ever wakes up to natural light again.