> Warren Buffett Blog: Warren Buffet Goes Against Twains Advice

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Warren Buffet Goes Against Twains Advice

Over a century ago, Mark Twain observed “Never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.” We are about to ignore Twain’s sage advice.

What follows is almost 4,000 words of fighting with people who buy ink by the barrel — in this case, with the editors of Scripps News. Their owners, The E.W. Scripps Company, publish more than a dozen U.S. newspapers, as well as newswire the Scripps Howard News Service.

What got Berkshire so riled up? A Scripps report on two of the holding company’s insurance businesses, which claimed, among other things, that the units “wrongfully delay or deny compensation to cancer victims and others to boost Berkshire’s profits.” The story is long and complicated and is best read rather than summarized — the entire piece is here. Berkshire says it contains “material inaccuracies and misleading statements,” which it outlines in its statement.

The merits of the story, and of Berkshire’s pushback, are best left for readers to judge. But what’s clear is the story irked the company enough to inspire such a lengthy response — a rarity for Berkshire.

“Although it is not our practice or preference to comment about matters in litigations where we defend our insureds or reinsureds, we will, where and when we deem appropriate, act to correct misinformation that may be inappropriately used against our subsidiaries, our insureds and reinsureds and our people in such matters,” the company said, “especially where the circumstances suggest the misinformation has been published for this purpose.”