Berkshire Hathaway to pay $896,000 to settle antitrust reporting suit

Federal officials say Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway violated reporting requirements on stock deal

Berkshire Hathaway Inc., the investment and holding company run by billionaire Warren Buffett, agreed to pay $896,000 to settle allegations that it violated antitrust reporting requirements when acquiring stock in a Chicago building materials company last year, federal officials said Wednesday.

The settlement, announced by the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, came after antitrust authorities opted not to seek penalties from Berkshire Hathaway for a similar violation six months earlier.

"Although we may not seek penalties for every inadvertent error, we will enforce the rules when the same party makes additional mistakes after promises of improved oversight," said Deborah Feinstein, director of the FTC's competition bureau.

Berkshire Hathaway did not admit or deny the violations. The proposed settlement must be approved by a federal court. A company spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Dec. 9, Berkshire Hathaway changed convertible notes it owned in USG Inc. into 21.4 million voting securities valued at more than $950 million, federal officials said.

The change meant Berkshire Hathaway's holdings exceeded $283.6 million, a level that required a report to be filed with the federal government so it could determine whether the transaction hurt competition.

Berkshire Hathaway made the filing a few weeks later and acknowledged the transaction should have been reported to antitrust officials, the FTC said.

The company agreed to pay the maximum penalty of $16,000 a day for the time in which it was in violation of the reporting rules and a mandatory waiting period that follows such antitrust filings.

In June 2013, Berkshire Hathaway made a similar late filing covering $41 million worth of voting securities it acquired in Symetra Financial Corp., a Bellevue, Wash., financial services company, the FTC said.

The agency took no action in that instance and Berkshire Hathaway promised to improve its monitoring procedures for antitrust filings, the FTC said.

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