Berkshire Hathaway 2017 Annual Meeting Audience Question # 9

Warren and Charlie defends Coca-Cola

Warren Buffett:

OK, station 3.

Audience Member:

Good morning, everybody. My name is Savilla Aliance. I’m from Germany. And I’m member of board of Ethecon Foundation Ethics and Economy.

I’m very happy that I can put my question here. And maybe you are not as happy as I am to listen to it.

Warren Buffett:

Well, we’ll try to stay happy. Thank you for coming.

Audience Member:

Thank you. Mr. Buffett, a few years ago, I saw a movie in which you proclaimed that the print on the dollar bill… “In God We Trust”… does not really express your philosophy. In your opinion, only cash counts. And your credo is, “in the dollar I trust.” You obviously thought…

Warren Buffett:

I don’t think I’ve ever said that actually. But…

Audience Member:

Well, I can show you the movie. That will prove.

Warren Buffett:

Oh, well, I… send me a clip. I…

Audience Member:

Well, maybe it was just joking. But always behind a joke there is also a truth. So… well, you laughed heartily at that moment.

You, as one of the most richest men in… of all times on this Earth, are you not a good- humored, friendly, elderly gentleman?

Whatever motivated those who designed the dollar notes, they certainly wanted to say that there is something higher than the value of this printed paper.

Regrettably, you have shown many times in your life that you see this differently. You have accumulated billions of dollars… showed extraordinary cleverness and skill, and you knew… you knew better to pick up than many others who, like you, used the rules which are inherent to capitalism for their own intentions.

But have you ever given a thought to what troubles and sacrifices, slavery and destruction of Mother Earth, and even diseases and deaths stick to the dollar bills which you gather so eagerly?

Let’s take Coca-Cola.

Ethecon Foundation Ethics and Economy from Germany has awarded the Black Planet Award to the members of the board of directors as well as to the large shareholders, Warren Buffett and Allen… and Herbert Allen…because you are co-responsible for all of what makes these group make so much money, isn’t it?

Among other things, Coca-Cola deprives people…

Warren Buffett:

Well, I…

Audience Member:

… of their drinking water…

Warren Buffett:

… at some point, yeah, I…

Audience Member:

… in drought-prone areas of the world.

Warren Buffett:

Well, are you asking a question?

Audience Member:

And many (the sound in this part of the video is inaudible) contaminate the groundwater in these areas.

Warren Buffett:

I don’t want to interrupt you, but are you… making a speech or asking a question?

Audience Member:

Well, I put my question right now.

Warren Buffett:

OK, good.

Audience Member:

Will you give up your Coca-Cola shares if the destruction of the environment, the monopolization of the right to healthy drinking water, and the shameless exploitation of the workers continue?

Charlie Munger:

Well, that’s more of a speech than a question.

Warren Buffett:

Yeah.

I don’t think that quote you had earlier… I have… I’ve said once or twice that it should say “In the Federal Reserve We Trust” because they print the money. And if they print too much of it, it could decline in value.

But I’ve never… to my knowledge, I’ve never said anything like you originally said.

And I would say this. I think I’ve been eating things I like to eat all my life. And Coca-Cola… this Coca-Cola’s 12 ounces, I drink about five a day. It has about 1.2 ounces of sugar in it.

And if you look at what people… different people… get their sugar and calories from, they get them from all kinds of things. I happen to believe that I like to get 1.2 ounces with this. And it’s enjoyable.

Since 1886, people have found it pleasant. And I would say that if you pick every meal in terms of what somebody in some recent publication has told you is the very best for you, I offer you that. I say, “Go to it.”

But if you told me that I would live one year longer. And I don’t even think that… that I would live one year longer if I’d eaten nothing but broccoli and asparagus and everything my Aunt Alice wanted me to eat all my life or I could eat everything I enjoyed eating, including chocolate sundaes, and Coca-Cola, and steak, and hash browns, you know, I would rather eat what… in a way I enjoy for my whole life than… and… than, you know eat some other way and live another year.

And I do think that choice should be mine, you know? If somebody decides sugar is harmful, you know, there… maybe you’d encourage the government to ban sugar. But sugar in Coca- Cola is not different than eating sugar, you know, put on my Grape-Nuts in the morning or whatever else I’m having.

So I think Coca-Cola’s been a very, very positive factor in America for… and the world… for a long, long time. And you can look at a list of achievements of the company.

And I really don’t want anybody telling me I can’t drink it.

Charlie?

Charlie Munger:

Well, I’ve solved my Coca-Cola problem by drinking Diet Coke. And I swill the stuff like other people swill I don’t know what. And I’ve been doing it for just as long as you’ve been taking all those Coca-Colas that… I’ve had breakfast with Warren when he has Coca-Colas and nuts.

Warren Buffett:

And pretty damn good too.

Charlie Munger:

If you keep doing that, Warren, you may not make a hundred.

Warren Buffett:

Well… I think there’s something in longevity to feeling happy about your life, too. It’s not…

Charlie Munger:

Absolutely.

Looking for an offline, PDF copy of all shareholder questions carefully arranged into specific topics such as How to properly evaluate a company for potential investment, Intelligent Investing and Secrets to achieving Success and Happiness? Click on the image below to learn more.

Q&A with Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger: A Compilation of All Shareholder Questions and Answers from The Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder Meetings

Click here to return to the Q&A topic list. Alternatively, you can proceed to the next or go back to the previous question.

Don`t copy text!