The Federal Trade Commission said Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway is paying almost $1 million for allegedly violating the filing requirements of an antitrust law.
The $896,000 civil penalty is small change for the giant conglomerate holding company with a stock price just north of $200,000 a share, but it’s a bit of an embarrassment for Buffett, one of the world’s richest people and a widely respected financial leader and investor.
The penalty settles allegations in a Justice Department lawsuit that Berkshire violated the notice and waiting requirements of the Hart-Scott-Rodino antitrust law. Berkshire allegedly did not disclose its plan to increase its stake in USG Corp. before the transaction closed late last year.
Under the law, the maximum penalty is $16,000 for each day of the violation. The FTC said Berkshire’s violation covered the 56 days between its acquisition of the USG stock and the end of a legally-mandated waiting period.
“Although we may not seek penalties for every inadvertent error, we will enforce the rules when the same party makes additional mistakes after promises of improved oversight,” said Deborah Feinstein, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Competition. “Companies and individual investors alike should ensure that they have an effective program in place to monitor compliance with HSR filing requirements.”
The FTC said Berkshire made a similar filing error in June 2013, connected with its acquisition of Symetra Financial shares. At the time, the FTC didn’t take any action after Buffett’s company committed to improve its “monitoring procedures going forward.”