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Why the world’s best investor hasn’t endorsed Joe Biden

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Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, attends the 2019 annual shareholders meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, May 3, 2019.
Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. Image: JOHANNES EISELE/AFP/Getty Images)

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet has had private conversations with Democratic candidate Joe Biden but has not yet endorsed him for the presidency, in a break from tradition.

Buffett, dubbed the world’s best investor, previously held fundraisers in support of Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama’s campaigns for the presidency but has stayed silent on Biden’s campaign.

However, the CEO of investment giant Berkshire Hathaway has criticised President Donald Trump heavily in recent years, describing him as a poor businessman.

"I don't know anybody else that's had six bankruptcies," Buffett said at a Clinton campaign event.

He has also “violently” disagreed with Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan, arguing that the USA was already great.

"America's great now - it's never been greater," Buffett said at an event in 2015.

So why the silence on Joe Biden?

While Buffett hasn’t publicly endorsed Biden, the two shared a phone call in October, ahead of a virtual fundraiser.

According to Biden, Buffett spoke about how America is in a position to “lead the whole damn world in a way that no one else can”.

However, Buffett provided some insight into his silence during the investment company’s annual general meetings in 2018 and 2019.

“You have to be careful about when you do speak, because it’s going to be assumed you’re speaking on behalf of your company,” Buffett said in 2019.

And in 2018, Buffett said that when he has spoken out about the elections, he has been “quite frank”, although has been speaking as a private citizen.

“I don’t think I have any business speaking for Berkshire.”

Data from the Centre for Responsive Politics shows Buffett donated to the Clinton and Obama campaigns, but has not donated to Biden’s campaign.

However, he contributes to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

The same data shows that Berkshire Hathaway employees have been backing Trump and Biden nearly equally, with workers sending US$200,000 to the Trump campaign and US$225,000 to Biden’s run.

Yahoo Finance US Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer said that while Buffett is not a “card carrying Democrat, he’s basically a Democrat”.

“There is no love lost when it comes to Donald Trump from Warren Buffett. They’re very much not on the same page with almost anything, including just the basic business stuff,” he said.

Buffett has previously criticised Trump for not disclosing his tax returns, and has also called for higher taxes on the wealthy.

Serwer said it’s likely Buffett has chosen to stay quiet on Biden’s campaign due to the business risks attached.

“He doesn’t want to hurt the portfolio businesses of Berkshire Hathaway. The way the country is divided up right now, [it’s] so polarised that if he comes out and says, ‘I’m for Joe Biden,’ then I think he’s concerned that a group of customers of a Berkshire portfolio company are going to say, ‘Boycott this company’.

“He doesn’t want to tie his CEO hands in that way… He would say he’s thinking of his business and his employees first.”

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