PRI Review

Warren Buffett Ends Support for Population Control Programs

Population control giant Warren Buffett recently announced his decision to cease donating from his company Berkshire Hathaway (BH) to charitable organizations, including controversial population control programs. This decision is a victory for families all over the world who were victims of coercive programs funded by Warren Buffett.

Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, is the owner and major shareholder of Berkshire Hathaway, a company which owns such enterprises as Dairy Queen and Sees Candies. Until the recent decision to cease charitable contributions, every Class A shareholder was able to designate up to three charities to receive a portion of the company’s profits. Buffett owns about one-third of the company, but holds well over half of the Class A shareholder physical certificates,1 so he controlled the destination of most of the charitable contributions. Since 1981, the program has disbursed $197 million in charitable donations.2

Buffett Foundation

Most of Buffett’s share of the charitable donations (over $100 million) went to his Buffett Foundation, which supports the most radical aspects of the population control movement. In 1994, Buffett provided $2 million in funding for the Population Council, which was used to fund clinical trials of Mifepristone (RU-486). Buffett also provided $2 million to Family Health International for the distribution of quinacrine hydrochloride, a chemical with sterilizes a woman by burning her fallopian tubes. Quinacrine is illegal in the U.S., but is used, often coercively, in Vietnam, India, and other nations. In the late 1990s, Buffett committed to a $20 million grant to International Projects Assistance Services (IPAS) which manufactures and distributes manual vacuum aspirators, used for performing abortions in the Third World.3

What happened to change Buffett’s mind about using BH profits for “charitable” donations? A series of events starting with a shareholders resolution PRI president Steve Mosher presented last year, authored by investment broker Tom Strobhar.

Shareholders Meeting Attended

Last year, Mosher traveled to Omaha, Nebraska to present a shareholder’s resolution at the annual shareholders meeting of Berkshire Hathaway. The resolution called for the company (and Warren Buffett) to stop funding abortion and population control programs at home and abroad. The company had objected to the resolution, but the Securities and Exchange Commission, which regulates publicly traded firms, forced them to back down. “What sense does it make,” Mosher asked Warren Buffett in front of 10,000 of his shareholders, “for you to be eliminating future Berkshire-Hathaway customers?” The success of BH depends on having consumers to buy its products. And yet Buffett has, in the words of his biographer, “‘A Malthusian dread that overpopulation (will) aggravate problems in all other areas — such as food, housing, even human survival.’”4

The Shareholders Speak

The shareholder’s resolution stated, “Whereas, charitable contributions should serve to enhance shareholders value; Whereas, the company has given money to groups involved in controversial activities like abortion and population control; Whereas, our company is dependent on people to buy the products and services of the various companies we own; Whereas, our company is being boycotted by Life Decisions International and investment-related groups like Pro-Vita Advisors because of our contributions:

Resolved: The shareholders request the company to refrain from making charitable contributions.”

The resolution was voted down, of course, since Warren Buffett owns the majority of the company’s stock. And there the matter remained, until Berkshire Hathaway acquired a company known as The Pampered Chef, Inc.

Pampered Chef, Inc.

The Pampered Chef (TPC) was founded in 1980 by Doris Christopher to provide multipurpose kitchen tools to homes across the nation. The products are sold by 67,000 independent “Kitchen Consultants,” at in-home “kitchen shows,” where they demonstrate the products to hostesses and their friends. This business model appeals to stay-at-home mothers who want to bring in income for their families, while having the flexibility to be home to raise their children.

When Berkshire Hathaway announced that it was acquiring The Pampered Chef, several Kitchen Consultants decided that they could no longer sell Pampered Chef products, knowing that a portion of their proceeds would be used to promote abortion. But Kitchen Consultant and mother of three Cindy Coughlon decided to take it one step further.

You’re Killing Your Business!

Coughlon read about Warren Buffett’s involvement in radical population control in a Citizen magazine article by Steve Mosher entitled “Mr. Buffett, you’re killing your business.” She was astonished to learn that Berkshire Hathaway gave corporate contributions to organizations like Planned Parenthood, and that Warren Buffett himself supported some of the worst aspects of the population control movement. In Cindy’s words, “‘Warren Buffett is not your average pro-abortion supporter. He is passionately committed to fighting the perceived threat of overpopulation… The Buffett Foundation is a private philanthropic entity dedicated to funding, almost exclusively, projects and groups that promote abortion and so-called reproductive freedom.’”5

Coughlon drafted a petition to “tell P.C. consultants and customers that profits from TPC would be used to support abortion,” and to request that Buffett stop funding population control and abortion.6 The response was mixed. Many in Pampered Chef, including founder Doris Christopher, defended BH’s giving program. But many others decided that they could no longer sell or purchase Pampered Chef products in good conscience. For many, this was a great sacrifice.

Success

In the end the petition was a success. On July 3, Berkshire Hathaway announced that it was ending all corporate charitable donations. The company’s press release stated, “The program worked well for many years. Recently, however, certain of the donations, including some made by Berkshire’s chairman, Warren Buffett, have caused harmful criticism to be directed at Berkshire’s new subsidiary, The Pampered Chef. The independent consultants that serve The Pampered Chef have no responsibility for what Berkshire Hathaway shareholders do, yet the careers of many of these consultants arc now suffering because of the contributions program.”7

Rather than cease funding controversial abortion and population groups only, Buffett decided to end all corporate charitable donations. This is precisely what PRI president Steve Mosher proposed last year at the shareholder’s meeting.

In the end, Warren Buffett is still free to do as he likes with his wealth. But no longer will Berkshire Hathaway corporate profits be used to forcibly sterilize women in the Third World, or to abort their children.

Endnotes

1 Thomas Strobhar, “Giving Until it Hurts,” Wall Street Journal, 1 August 2003.

2 Berkshire Hathaway Inc. News Release, 3 July 2003.

3 Steven Mosher, “The Billionaire Boys Club,” PRI Review, April-May-June 2001.

4 Ibid.

5 Cindy Coughlon, “When Homemakers Roar,” Special Reports, Life Decisions International, Summer 2003.

6 Ibid.

7 Berkshire Hathaway Inc. News Release.

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