Yes, I know Warren Buffet, billionaire extraordinaire and the Oracle of Omaha, would never run a ponzi scheme and I know if he ever read this post he might be slightly offended. But I am only asking it from a rhetorical standpoint. Because, obviously, for any number of reasons (not the least of which is that it would probably be a lot harder for him to get away with it with a publicly traded company like Berkshire Hathaway, unlike Madoff whose company was a closely held mom and pop set up) it would be virtually impossible for Warren Buffet to pull off a scheme like the other billionaire, Bernard Madoff, for any length of time. Besides, these ponzies seem to work best with hedge funds and outfits like that…
But I can’t help but see some similarities between the two men, and other billionaires, like Sir Robert Allen Stanford who was also recently charged with massive fraud. My over-active imagination began to run wild, as I sat in Starbucks surfing the Internet on my laptop, and nursing a huge disappointment tonight (which I may or may not share in another post, depending on how brave I feel as the night wears on) after I read on Reuters that Berkshire Hathaway’s shares had been taking some hits, and have actually fallen to a five year low. I thought: “hme…how strong is the marriage between Warren Buffet and his wife?”….
Both Bernard Madoff and Warren Buffet are highly respected in their field. (Well, Bernie “was”) Both men are filthy rich billionaires in their seventies and are married to great, loving women. Madoff’s wife Ruth Madoff, for instance, has stood steadfastly by her man, in spite of the fact that he is almost certainly heading to jail on account of his massive financial and securities fraud. Some other wives might have asked for a divorce. But Ruth Madoff is not “other wives.” Even though her husband was being called a “scumbag” by the likes of billionaire real estate titan Donald Trump (or some derivative/pejorative synonym) Ruth has never wavered in her support of her husband. Her self-imposed gag order tells all. Cause she easily could have done a 20/20 interview, won points with detractors, and probably won the respect of her sons who have distanced themselves from both parents since the scandal broke. If Ruth Madoff is thinking divorce, she is certainly keeping it to herself, unlike her daughter in law Deborah Madoff who filed for divorce on the very day that Bernard Madoff was arrested and charged by the SEC, and other women in similar situations, like Michelle Schrenker, Susan Stanford and god knows who else?
Like Ruth Madoff, Latvian beauty Astrid Menks Buffet has a reputation of “taking really good care of Warren.” Even his ex wife Susan used to say so. Warren Buffet has only been married to Astrid Menks Buffet for about 2.5 years, btw, even though they have been together since the 1970’s, after Warren’s first wife Susan Buffet, with whom he maintained a close and loving relationship till she died in 2004, left him and moved to San Francisco to start a new life.
I don’t believe Susan and Warren ever divorced. So he and Astrid were basically living “adulterously” for over 20 years until Susan died and he made Astrid his second wife in 2006. The interesting part of this is that Susan introduced Astrid and Warren. And by all accounts, she gave their relationship her full blessings. I hear the threesome used to send out Christmas cards signed, “Warren, Susie and Astrid” during Susan’s life-time! And I also heard that Warren and Susan vacationed together every year…so technically speaking, even though Susan and Warren were still married, it is unlikely she could have successfully brought a divorce action on the basis of adultery. Certainly, if they lived in New York, she couldn’t. Because in New York, condonation and/or procurement are defenses to adultery. What does that mean? Well, with procurement it means the following:
A plaintiff in a divorce action based on adultery will not be entitled to a divorce, even if the adultery is proven, if the adultery was committed by the procurement of the plaintiff or with the connivance of the plaintiff. Procurement occurs where the plaintiff-spouse brings about or effects the adultery engaged in by the other spouse. Connivance occurs where the plaintiff-spouse corruptly consents to the adultery of the other spouse.
A plaintiff is not entitled to a divorce even if the adultery is proved where the offense charged has been forgiven by the spouse commencing the action.
Ok. Now, I admit it may slightly inappropriate to pose such a question as “what if Warren Buffet were running a ponzi.” Again, this is just a hypothetical and rhetorical question. I know Warren Buffet would never do a thing like that. He is one of the greatest philanthropists of our Time and has vowed to give away all of his money during his life-time to charity — most of it to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that benefits many important social causes, including poverty and health initiatives in Africa.
But think about it: Who would have thought the chairman of NASDAQ could have masterminded the biggest ponzi scheme in global history the way that Bernard Madoff is alleged to have done? Sure, Madoff was no billionaire on the level of Buffet. Buffet is said to be worth nearly all the money Madoff usurped — about $45 billion dollars. But he, too, was a major “philanthropist” and gave gobs of money to charity over the years — Madoff, I mean.
So, is it all that far-fetched to speculate about Buffet? Look at what is going on in the World. Just this week another billionaire, Sir Robert Allen Stanford and his wife Susan, ex girlfriend Louise Sage Stanford and current fiancee Andrea Stoelker were in the news for yet another billion dollar fraud. Always behind these men are strong, interesting wives and mistresses that makes their stories so much more intriguing. Because one is always left wondering, will she leave him? Or will she stand by her man?
Well, it looks the the Oracle of Omaha is having some trouble already. Not legal trouble. But his Midas touch with investing in the stock market seems to be waning just a bit. Says today’s Reuters report:
Shares of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc sank Friday to their lowest level in 5-1/2 years amid concern the insurance and investment company could suffer big losses from bets on world stock markets and U.S. banks.
I have learned that in this current economic climate, where there is smoke there is fire. I would not be surprised if they announce that Berkshire is in deep financial trouble two weeks from now. And my question is, what will Astrid do? Moreover, what if the news is even worse and it is not just a tumble in stocks, but financial and investing irregularities that are discovered with Berkshire Hathaway? With a conglomerate of that size, it wouldn’t come as a complete shock that some irregularities have evaded regulators until now. What would happen?
The Warren/Astrid marriage is still very young, even though they have been together almost as long as I’ve been on the Earth. And theirs is definitely an age-appropriate relationship. She is 60 and he’s about 77. So you know she was no trophy wife who is in it for the money. In fact, Warren’s daughter Susan, who seems to approve of the marriage (they got married at her house in Nebraska I hear) has said that “Astrid is with my dad for all the right reasons.” I guess that is another way of saying that she is no hottie looking for a billionaire sugar daddy; she actually loves the man for his own sake.
So I am guessing when it comes down to it, rhetorically, if Buffet were to get into hot water with Berkshire Hathaway, in a “ponzication” scheme, I think Astrid will stand by her man, just like Ruth is standing by Bernie. But yes, I know. This will never be an issue because a man like Buffet is way to intelligent to get himself into that kind of soup. I was reading a Businessweek article on Buffet and here’s what the author said:
Berkshire is ‘possibly the most talked about and the least understood company in the world’ contends Alice Schroeder, a PaineWebber Inc. insurance analyst who in January published one of the few comprehensive studies of the company ever undertaken by a brokerage house.
I just hope it turns out that she means that in a good way. But if, it should turn out, that something is not kosher with the storied Berkshire Hathaway, then, for sure, I, for one, hope that Astrid Menks Buffet will stand by her man to the bitter end. Because the fall out will be huge and Warren’s really going to need her to be like Ruth.
See our Ruth Madoff posts here: http://www.divorcesaloon.com/index.php?s=ruth+madoff
Sources: Santoro v. Santoro, 55 NYS 2d 294 and Rera v. Rera 100 Misc. 2d 670 and Alan Scheinkman on New York Law of Domestic Relations
I just found this 12/08 NBC interview with Buffet where he says, “people thought I was doing a ponzi scheme.” So. I am not crazy. http://www.cnbc.com/id/28253058