FIRST ON THE DAILY SIGNAL—A government and corporate watchdog group filed a complaint Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission against Berkshire Hathaway in connection with the arrest of the group’s chairman at a shareholder meeting for raising issues linking the names of Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and Jeffrey Epstein.

National Legal and Policy Center Chairman Peter Flaherty spoke at a shareholder meeting in May in support of a resolution requiring Berkshire Hathaway to have two different people hold the jobs of CEO and chairman of the board. Buffett currently holds both positions. 

When Flaherty brought up Buffett’s financial support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, he noted that Gates, the billionaire founder of Microsoft, had traveled with Epstein, a convicted sex offender. 

At that point, Buffett called for Flaherty’s ouster from the meeting, and Flaherty was arrested and charged with criminal trespass by police in Omaha, Nebraska, even though his name was on the list of attendees for the Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting. 

Berkshire Hathaway, a multinational conglomerate holding company, is based in Omaha.

Police detained Flaherty for about three hours. He waited, not in a cell, but on a bench with others who had been arrested. He paid a bond of $2,500 to be released. Nebraska prosecutors dropped the charges shortly after the arrest. 

“The almost instantaneous silencing of Mr. Flaherty at the very mention of Epstein obviously struck a nerve with the public that transcends political ideology, underscoring the widely held belief that the rich and powerful play by a different set of rules than ordinary citizens,” says the SEC complaint filed by NLPC counsel Paul Kamenar. 

“At the same time, however, Mr. Flaherty suffered great humiliation for publicly being manhandled, hauled out of the arena before thousands of Berkshire shareholders and arrested,” the complaint continued. “His right to fully present his views to the shareholders who still had an opportunity to vote for the [National Legal and Policy Center’s] proposal and their right to hear his presentation were improperly curtailed by Berkshire, Mr. Buffett and his agents.”

Flaherty said he has been involved in shareholder activism for 19 years, and had never before been arrested or had his microphone cut off when making a proposal. 

The SEC has the jurisdiction to enforce its rules to prevent publicly traded companies from silencing shareholders, Flaherty said. 

“The point of the complaint is to ask for relief from the SEC,” Flaherty told The Daily Signal in a phone interview Tuesday. “We are asking for Berkshire Hathaway to cease and desist from doing this in future shareholder meetings, to acknowledge their actions constitute a violation of the rules, and order that my full remarks be posted on the website.”

A Berkshire Hathaway spokesperson did not immediately respond to phone and email inquiries on Tuesday. 

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, including for higher taxes on the nation’s top earners. 

The National Legal and Policy Center was the sponsor of Proposal No. 8 at the May shareholder meeting. The proposal would have “[required] hereafter that two separate people hold the office of the chairman and the office of the CEO.” 

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 and Melinda Gates Foundation, among other factors. 

Under the meeting rules, shareholders have three minutes to speak for or against a resolution.

Gates’ reported association with Epstein has been a subject of controversy.  

During the May meeting, a Berkshire Hathaway employee interrupted Flaherty shortly after about a minute into his remarks. Then, someone cut off his microphone after Flaherty said, “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.”

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