Mr. Buffett, 91, faces a slightly more contentious annual meeting than usual, despite the fact that Berkshire’s shares, up nearly 8 percent this year, have outperformed the overall market, which is down 13 percent. “Historically, Berkshire shares have outperformed during periods of economic distress as investors made a ‘flight to quality,’” Cathy Seifert, an analyst at CFRA Research who follows Berkshire, wrote in a note to clients this past week.
Dissident shareholders put up a proposal asking Berkshire to overhaul how it views and details its climate risk, something Mr. Buffett has resisted doing. They say Berkshire Hathaway Energy, which manages a number of large utilities, has lagged rivals in setting plans to lower its emissions of carbon dioxide. The climate proposal last year had the support of many larger shareholders outside of Mr. Buffett’s inner circle, including BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street.
What’s more, a number of large investors, including the giant California Public Employees Retirement Fund, backed a shareholder proposal that sought to remove Mr. Buffett, who is currently both chief executive and chairman of the company’s board of directors, from his chair role. That proposal is one that larger investors have floated at other companies as well, arguing that splitting the roles is better corporate governance.
Mr. Buffett opposed the proposals and they failed on Saturday. Because he has a large number of votes, proposals Mr. Buffett opposes are typically defeated.
When responding to the climate proposal on Saturday, he once again emphasized that Berkshire Hathaway Energy was making big investments in renewable energy projects. But those behind the proposal said they wanted Berkshire to make climate disclosures for the whole company, not just parts of the conglomerate. “What we are asking for is a composite picture,” said Timothy Youmans, an executive at EOS at Federated Hermes in North America, which was a sponsor of the climate proposal.
Peter Eavis contributed reporting.