Buffett On Derivatives: 'A Fool's Game'

May 07, 2007 2:23 AM ETSPY, DIA12 Comments
Michael Panzner profile picture
Michael Panzner

Warren Buffett, the billionaire investor and long-time chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK.A), is a man who speaks his mind. I'm not sure whether he's always been that way, or whether it is his exceptional wealth or his age -- or both -- that emboldens him to cut through Wall Street B.S. like a hot knife and expose the bloody truth about the foibles of modern finance.

Whatever the case, his comments on derivatives, in particular, have been always been especially enlightening -- and entertaining -- because they expose this supposed risk-sharing panacea for the house of cards it has become. In Derivatives Cause 'Mass Destruction', the Wall Street Journal reports on the 'Oracle of Omaha's' latest thoughts on the subject.

Earlier Saturday, Mr. Buffet repeated his warning on the dangers of derivatives, saying that excessive borrowing by traders, investors and corporations will eventually lead to significant dislocation in the financial markets.

In fielding a question about derivatives, which he once referred to as "financial weapons of mass destruction," Mr. Buffett told shareholders that he expects derivatives and borrowing, or leverage, would inevitably end in huge losses for many financial participants.

"The introduction of derivatives has totally made any regulation of margin requirements a joke," said Mr. Buffett, referring to the U.S. government's rules limiting the amount of borrowed money an investor can apply to each trade. "I believe we may not know where exactly the danger begins and at what point it becomes a super danger. We don't know when it will end precisely, but...at some point some very unpleasant things will happen in markets."

Mr. Buffett has expressed similar bearish sentiments about derivatives in previous meetings and in his widely read annual letters to shareholders. He had first-hand experience with the difficulties of derivatives after Berkshire acquired General

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Michael Panzner profile picture
Michael J. Panzner is a 25-year veteran of the global stock, bond, and currency markets who has worked in New York and London for HSBC, Soros Funds, ABN Amro, Dresdner Bank, and J.P. Morgan Chase. He is also a New York Institute of Finance faculty member and a graduate of Columbia University. He is the author of When Giants Fall: An Economic Roadmap for the End of the American Era (http://www.economicroadmap.com/), Financial Armageddon: Protecting Your Future from Four Impending Catastrophes (http://www.financialarmageddon.com/) and The New Laws of the Stock Market Jungle: An Insider's Guide to Successful Investing in a Changing World (http://tinyurl.com/l3zyp8). Panzner has appeared on or been quoted by CNBC, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Barron's and other print, radio, and television outlets. Visit his sites: Financial Armageddon (http://www.financialarmageddon.com/) and When Giants Fall (http://www.economicroadmap.com/)

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