Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Interview of Charles T. Munger with Joseph Grundfest.

Just who is Charlie Munger. To many people he is the other half of Berkshire Hathaway. Buffett's partner, sounding board, confidant, strategist, etc... Charlie has often allowed Warren to hog the limelight, but his contribution has been significant as well. Just read Warren's notes and memoirs.


Charles T. Munger is a man of many interests, much like his hero Benjamin Franklin. Self-taught in a range of disciplines, he's a strong advocate for interdisciplinary education saying, "If I can do it, many people can." A student of physics and mathematics before entering law school, he left his mark on the legal profession early in his career by co-founding Munger, Tolles & Olson in 1962—a firm that is today consistently ranked at the top of its field. Now an icon of the business world, he joined forces with Warren Buffett in the mid-1960s—leaving law to become vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a partner in one of the most successful firms in the world.

Over the years Munger has gained a reputation as something of a no-nonsense voice for sound investment strategies and responsible business practices—as well as simple common sense. But lately it is the mythical Greek character Cassandra who is much on his mind. After living through the Great Depression, serving in WWII, and entering the business world in an era of restraint and sensible regulation, he is irritated by what he calls "the asininities" of today's government and business leaders that led to the current crisis. He saw the financial train wreck coming and voiced his concerns loudly. But almost no one shared them.

"It is painful to see the tragedy coming, to care about all the people who are going to be clobbered, and not to be able to do one damn thing about it," said Munger, as we prepared for the interview that follows. As the nation navigates through this crisis, entering waters previously uncharted, perhaps the powers that be will be more willing to address issues previously ignored.

Joseph Grundfest is the W. A. Franke Professor of Law and Business is more than familiar with many of Munger's complaints. A former commissioner at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and counsel to the President's Council of Economic Advisers, Grundfest is today a prominent voice for sense and responsibility in corporate governance. Grundfest founded Stanford's Directors' College, the premier venue for continuing education of directors of publicly traded firms, and also founded the award-winning Stanford Securities Class Action Clearinghouse, which provides detailed, online information about the prosecution, defense, and settlement of federal class action securities fraud litigation. His scholarship focuses on matters related to securities fraud, complex litigation, corporate governance, and statutory interpretation, and his name regularly appears on lists of the nation's most influential attorneys.