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Author: DrtThrwingMonkey Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 212531  
Subject: Re: 5 stars to Chanos who bashed hpq Date: 11/21/2012 4:07 PM
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Seems a little harsh. After all the only thing Meg Whitman is guilty of is being a party to making an investment that, for whatever, reason, hasn't worked out. And, how many "investors" have not been in those shoes? No me, in all probability not you, and not Warren Buffett.

Is Whitman's culpability that much greater than Buffett's re: Sokol? After all, Buffett knew Sokol was pitching him a company whose shares he had loaded up on; but, Buffett didn't bother to ask for specifics.



I think the two episodes are pretty dramatically different. In the one case, you have a borderline unethical move by an important, competent collaborator (Sokol), whom Buffett was understandably loath to abandon, given how much value he has brought to Berkshire throughout his career. While Buffett was probably guilty, in retrospect, of not asking that extra important question (how long have you owned those shares, Dave?), he presumed the innocence of a guy who had always deserved the benefit of the doubt up till then. And the particular Lubrizol deal, worth about a twentieth of Berkshire's market cap, seems to be working out for shareholders exactly as Sokol had suggested it would.

On the other hand, you have a CEO (Apotheker) who was in the process of being dumped by the board for some spectacularly bad decisions, and who has just arrived with a fairly transformational investment involving huge sums of money, almost a fifth of the market cap. The board's most important job is capital allocation, and here you have a board member (Whitman), taking over the company because she is supposedly a software executive, and she and the rest of her board don't seem to have done even the most cursory due diligence as to whether the Autonomy deal was a good one for HP, but signed off on it anyways. Only a year later, it looks like 9 of those 10 billion dollars (if not more) were just flushed down the toilet.

If you make Buffett resign for what I see as a fairly minor error, with almost no negative consequence for shareholders, then every CEO in the world will have to resign. If you DON'T make Whitman resign for this major blunder, with its serious consequences for shareholders, then all CEO's might as well keep their huge salaries with no questions asked, no matter how bad their performance, unless they have engaged in outright criminal behaviour perhaps (or of course inappropriate sexual conduct - just kidding). I bet 95% of Berkshire shareholders want Buffett to stay, despite Lubrizol, whereas most HP shareholder would likely be glad to be rid of Whitman, at least I would if I owned shares.

Regards, DTM
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