CalPERS to vote to replace Buffett as Berkshire chairman

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FILE PHOTO: Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc, pauses while playing bridge as part of the company annual meeting weekend in Omaha

(Reuters) – CalPERS, the largest U.S. public pension fund, on Tuesday said it will vote for a shareholder proposal that Berkshire Hathaway Inc replace Warren Buffett as chairman, though he would remain chief executive officer.

The fund, whose full name is the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, disclosed its vote in a regulatory filing ahead of Berkshire’s scheduled April 30 annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska.

CalPERS said it invests more than $450 billion, including more than $2.3 billion in Berkshire shares.

Berkshire did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In proposing to install an independent chair at Berkshire, the nonprofit National Legal and Policy Center said the roles of CEO and chairman are “greatly diminished” when one person holds both.

Berkshire opposes the proposal. It has said someone outside management should be chairman after Buffett is no longer in charge, but that the billionaire should remain chairman and CEO.

Buffett, 91, has run Berkshire since 1965.

Berkshire plans for Buffett’s son Howard Buffett to become non-executive chairman after his father’s departure, while Vice Chairman Greg Abel is slated to become CEO.

Shareholder proposals that Berkshire opposes are generally defeated by large or overwhelming margins.

Buffett recently controlled about 32% of Berkshire’s voting power, while owning about 16% of its stock.

CalPERS said it will also vote for shareholder proposals that Berkshire report on its plans to reduce greenhouse gases and improve diversity, and its own proposal that Berkshire report on its plan to handle climate risk.

Berkshire opposes these proposals.

CalPERS also plans to withhold votes to reelect directors Susan Decker and Meryl Witmer because of a lack of disclosures related to climate change.

The fund backed U.S. company directors 72% of the time in 2021, according to the research firm Insightia.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Bernard Orr)

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