Matt Phillips of the Journal gets an insight in during the paper’s live-blogging of Buffett’s testimony:
Buffett seems to aim a dart at McDaniel, who just made reference to the “modest” nature of the fees for ratings. “I haven’t found ‘em yet,” Buffett says. “The modest fees he was referring too.” This interchange underscores the strange position Buffett is in with regards to Moody’s, he’s a huge shareholder. But he also has to pay Moody’s for his ratings, and he clearly feels annoyed about it. At the same time, he’s crowed about the “pricing power” that Moody’s has, which is also what he seems to be complaining about. Strange.
Strange is one word for it. Hypocritical is another. If there’s one thing that everyone—and I mean that all-but-literally—agrees on, it’s the central—indeed, essential—role of the ratings agencies in causing the crash. Almost everyone agrees that their business model is fundamentally corrupt, too.
And so the spectacle of the hero of American capitalism defending the indefensible is beyond disappointing. Add Buffett to the long list of fallen institutions you can’t trust anymore. It’s yet another reason for the press to back away from its Buffett worship.
— Further Reading:
Warren Buffett, Talking His Book on Goldman. Warren Buffett can tout an investment like any other CEO. And the press can airbrush it as long as it’s Buffett doing the talking.
Deal Near on Derivatives: Berkshire Presses Lawmakers to Roll Back Proposed Curbs, Avoiding Potential Hit.
The Business Press and the Cult of Personality: A misplaced emphasis on celebrity over substance got us into this mess.