The chairman of a corporate watchdog was removed from a shareholder meeting and arrested after questioning Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett’s support for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The ejected nonprofit leader’s criticism Saturday included Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ travel with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
Pete Flaherty, chairman and CEO of the National Legal and Policy Center, was arrested and charged with criminal trespassing by police in Omaha, Nebraska, even though his name was on the list of attendees for the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting.
“I apparently touched the third rail of billionaire politics when I mentioned Jeffrey Epstein’s name,” Flaherty told The Daily Signal on Monday. “I’ve been involved in shareholder activism for 19 years, and I have never before had my mic cut and I was never before arrested.”
Epstein is a convicted sex offender whose 2019 death in a New York jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking charges was ruled a suicide. He had close ties to elites in politics, business, and entertainment.
Buffett, the billionaire chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., is well known for taking political stances on the Left, often for higher taxes for the nation’s top earners.
Berkshire Hathaway, a multinational conglomerate holding company based in Omaha, did not immediately respond Monday to phone and email inquiries from The Daily Signal.
The National Legal and Policy Center, or NLPC, was the sponsor of Proposal No. 8 at Saturday’s shareholder meeting in Omaha, which would “require hereafter that two separate people hold the office of the chairman and the office of the CEO.” Buffett holds both jobs.
At the meeting, Flaherty said that under the proposed change, Berkshire “would be less identified with Mr. Buffett’s personal political activities,” and pointed to Buffett’s support for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among other factors.
Under the meeting rules, shareholders have three minutes to speak for a resolution. A Berkshire Hathaway employee interrupted Flaherty shortly after 1 minute, and then someone cut his microphone.
In his remarks, Flaherty talked about the Gates nonprofit’s funding of left-wing causes such as critical race theory, gender politics, and defunding the police. However, it was only when he brought up Epstein that several in the audience booed and hissed.
“The Gates Foundation bankrolls the teaching of critical race theory around the country, including that math is inherently racist,” Flaherty said at the shareholder meeting Saturday. “The Gates Foundation offers a Gender Identity Toolbox which asserts that gender is the result of “socially and culturally constructed ideas. This is a lie. Gender is not a cultural construct. It is a genetic and biological fact. … We know how much Bill Gates cares about children. He met and traveled with Jeffrey Epstein many times after Epstein was convicted of sex crimes.”
Two security officers then stood in front of Flaherty and told him that he would be arrested if he continued.
Flaherty recalled responding that he would leave after finishing his statement. He said he didn’t know at the time that his microphone’s audio had been cut.
Next, an Omaha police officer told Flaherty that he was under arrest and escorted him from the meeting at CHI Health Center Arena. Police transported him to the Douglas County Correctional Center in Omaha, where he was searched, handcuffed, and charged with criminal trespass.
Police detained Flaherty for about three hours, not waiting in a cell but on a bench with others who had been arrested. He paid a bond of $2,500 to be released.
Flaherty, a resident of Arlington, Virginia, is set to appear May 22 in Douglas County Court in Omaha.
Since 2004, Flaherty and other NLPC staffers have attended and spoken at annual shareholder meetings held by various corporations, including Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Home Depot, PepsiCo, Salesforce, Visa, Alphabet, Amazon, Boeing, Citigroup, Facebook, Procter & Gamble, and Walmart.
“I was treated like any other criminal, fingerprinted, handcuffed,” Flaherty told The Daily Signal. “I’ve always been courteous with decorum at the annual shareholder meetings. I didn’t raise my voice. I was not disruptive.”
Flaherty said he is asking for an apology from Berkshire Hathaway, and that the charges be dropped.
He was on the schedule to speak at theshareholder meeting, Flaherty noted. Both Securities and Exchange Commission regulations and Delaware state law require that publicly traded companies hold annual meetings to hear shareholder input. Although based in Nebraska, like many major corporations, for tax reasons Berkshire Hathaway was incorporated in Delaware
Below is a transcript of the exchange Saturday:
Flaherty: I am Peter Flaherty, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center. If we had an independent chair, the company [Berkshire Hathaway] would be less identified with Mr. Buffett’s political activities.
He’s donated tens of billions to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. As Bill Gates explained when the couple was still together, “although the foundation bears our names, basically half our resources have come from Warren Buffett.”
If woke culture is a disease, then philanthropy is the virus.
The Gates Foundation bankrolls the teaching of critical race theory around the country, including that math is inherently racist.
The Gates Foundation offers a Gender Identity Toolbox which asserts that gender is the result of “socially and culturally constructed ideas.”
This is a lie. Gender is not a cultural construct. It is a genetic and biological fact.
[At this point, a Berkshire Hathaway employee interrupts.]
Flaherty: You are not going to censor what I say, Ma’am. I’m very sorry. And I appeal to the chair that I be allowed to continue. Sir?
Buffett: You may continue, but under the three-minute limitation.
Flaherty: Of course.
We know how much Bill Gates cares about children. He met and traveled with Jeffrey Epstein many times after Epstein was convicted of sex crimes.
The Gates Foundation had a huge influence over the COVID response fiasco.
Bill Gates defended China’s COVID policies and still discounts the possibility that the virus originated from a lab [in Wuhan, China], even though U.S. intelligence agencies disagree.
The Gates Foundation may be the largest single donor to the dark money machine known as Arabella [Advisors.]
[Buffett gestures from the stage and makes inaudible comments.]
Flaherty: It funds causes like defunding the police that are making American cities unlivable.
Money goes, too, to groups conducting—
[Flaherty’s microphone is cut at the 2:04 mark; the rest is inaudible.]
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