Nebraska prosecutors have dropped charges against a shareholder activist who was arrested after bringing up Berkshire Hathaway Inc. CEO Warren Buffett’s donations to a nonprofit run by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates.
Peter Flaherty, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government and corporate watchdog, attended a Berkshire Hathaway shareholder meeting in early May and spoke in favor of a resolution that said Buffett should not be both the chairman of the board as well as CEO of the Omaha, Nebraska-based company.
Flaherty talked about Buffett’s contributions to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and noted Gates’ reported travel with a convicted sex offender, financier Jeffrey Epstein.
After doing so, Flaherty’s microphone was cut and he was escorted out, then arrested. He paid $2,500 bail.
The Omaha City Attorney’s Office dropped the charges Friday, just before a trial set for Monday.
“The trespassing charge has been dropped, but I never should have been arrested,” Flaherty told supporters of the National Legal and Policy Center in an email. “Nor should I have been handcuffed, fingerprinted, brought to jail, and detained for three hours.”
In the email, Flaherty added:
As far as I know, the arrest of a shareholder during a proposal presentation has never before occurred at the annual meeting of a public company in the United States. Shareholder activists of the past such as Wilma Soss (the basis for the Carol Burnett ‘cleaning lady’ character) and Evelyn Y. Davis often challenged and certainly annoyed CEOs, but their microphones were never cut and they were certainly never arrested.
I have spoken at the annual meetings of dozens of public companies over the past 19 years. My demeanor at the Berkshire meeting was no different from any other. There was no reason to throw me out except that I came too close to the truth.
Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported on new evidence that Epstein, before his 2019 death in jail, appeared to be blackmailing Gates.
“Additional revelations about Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein since the meeting confirm the importance of the issue I sought to raise, namely the reputational risk to Berkshire Hathaway by having one individual hold both the chairman and CEO positions, especially if that person is so closely identified with particular causes, like the ‘woke’ Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,” Flaherty wrote, adding:
The whole point of the shareholder proposal process is to allow shareholders critical of management an avenue to change corporate policy. To simply silence and arrest a shareholder who disagrees with management stands the whole concept of having public shareholders on its head. If Warren Buffett thinks that since he owns 15% of Berkshire shares, that he can act with impunity, he is mistaken.
Berkshire Hathaway did not immediately respond to an inquiry Tuesday from The Daily Signal.
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