Warren Buffett’s right-hand man blasted Robinhood, slammed SPACs, questioned bitcoin, and warned against speculating at the Daily Journal annual meeting. Here are the highlights.

charlie munger
Charlie Munger.

Warren Buffett’s right-hand man issued a warning to stock-market speculators, criticized the trading platforms enabling them, and blasted SPACs at the Daily Journal annual meeting on Wednesday.

Charlie Munger, the vice-chairman of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, is also the chairman of Daily Journal, a newspaper publisher and software developer.

Here are the meeting highlights. We’ll be updating them as the meeting continues.

Speculation

Munger acknowledged that periods of mass speculation occur from time to time, and said his normal policy was to “ride them out.” He cautioned amateur investors and day traders against acting recklessly.

“Shareholders should be more sensible and not crowd into stocks and just buy them because they’re going up and they like to gamble,” Munger said. “That’s a very dangerous way to invest.”

GameStop

Munger also compared the GameStop short squeeze in January to people gambling at the racetrack.

“That’s the kind of thing that happens when you get people who gamble the way they would betting on racehorses,” he said.

“It’s very dangerous and it’s really stupid to have a culture to encourage gambling in stocks,” he continued. “Of course that is going to cause trouble and it did.”

Trading apps

Munger also called out Robinhood and other trading platforms for “luring” novice investors into speculating on stocks.

“It’s a dirty way to make money and I think we’re crazy to allow it,” Munger said. “All this activity is regrettable, I think civilizations would be better without it.”

“Nobody should believe that Robinhood’s trades are free,” Munger said, adding that their practise of selling order flow was “dishonorable.”

SPACs

The 97-year-old also called out the boom in special-purpose acquisition vehicles (SPACs), which offer an alternative way to go public by listing then acquiring a private company.

“Crazy speculation in enterprises not even found or picked out yet is a sign of an irritating bubble,” he said. “The investment banking profession will sell shit as long as shit can be sold.”

“I think it must end badly but I don’t know when,” he added.

Wells Fargo

“There’s no question that Wells Fargo has disappointed longtime investors like Berkshire. Because the old management were not consciously malevolent or thieving but they had terrible judgment.

Bitcoin

“I don’t think bitcoin’s going to end up as the medium of exchange for the world. It’s too volatile.
It’s kind of an artificial substitute for gold.”

Costco

“People really trust Costco to deliver enormous values and that is why Costco presents some danger to Amazon. They’ve got a better reputation for providing value than practically anyone including Amazon.”

Tesla and bitcoin

Munger was asked to choose the more astounding event, the stratospheric rise in bitcoin’s value or the astronomical rise in Tesla’s stock price over the past year.

He quoted author Samuel Johnson, who when presented with two choices, said, “I can’t decide the order of precedency between a flea and a louse.”

“I don’t know which is worse,” he added.

Alibaba founder Jack Ma

“I think Jack Ma was very arrogant to be telling the Chinese government how dumb they are. Considering their system that is not what he should have been doing.”

The rich getting richer during the pandemic

“That’s a misplaced concern. Nobody’s was trying to make the rich richer, that was an accidental byproduct of trying to save the economy under terrible conditions. It was probably wise that we acted exactly as we did.”

Modern monetary theory

“Maybe the modern monetary theory is right. Put me down as skeptical.”

Inequality

“I don’t mind a little inequality,” Munger said, describing it as an “inevitable consequence” of a growing economy.

Wealth tax

“Any rich nation ought to have a social safety net that expands a little with its wealth.”

Politics

Munger bemoaned the rising amount of “hatred” in politics, but argued the country had been well governed for the past century.

“The system fo checks and balances and elections that our founders gave us actually gave us pretty much the right policies during my lifetime, and I hope that will continue.”

Haven

“I don’t know anything about Haven,” Munger said, referring to the joint healthcare initiative between Berkshire, JPMorgan, and Amazon that was dismantled recently.

The evolution of business

“Business success long term is a lot like biology. In biology, the individuals all die and eventually so do all the species. And capitalism is almost as brutal. Just look at what’s changed in my lifetime. Who ever dreamed when I was young that Kodak and General Motors would go bankrupt? It’s incredible what’s happened in terms of the destruction.”

Learning

“I think I had the right temperament. When people gave me a good idea I quickly mastered it and used it. It’s such a simple idea. Without the method of learning, you’re like a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.”

Psychology

“It’s one of the most ignorant professions in the world,” Munger said, highlighting that many psychologists can’t connect what they know with other types of knowledge.

Adapting to technological change

“If you have a fixable disadvantage, remove it, and if it’s unfixable, learn to live without it. What else can you do?”