Warren Buffett’s Sweet Tooth

What is really going on with Warren Buffett and Cadbury-Schweppes? First, on Tuesday, Buffett’s Berkshire-Hathaway told the SEC that as of December 31st, 2003, it controlled $73.3-million in Cadbury-Schweppes ADRs (American Depository Receipts).

Then, two days later, Buffett’s filed with the SEC to say that it didn’t actually hold said ADRs. Instead, it held Cadbury-Schweppes shares (say that ten times fast) that it had purchased on the London exchange. In other words, it didn’t have to disclose the holding to the SEC, but it had made a mistake (it seems) and did so anyways.

Now, however, we have another 13F-HR filing from the increasingly prolific Berkshire. The Cadbury-Schweppes holding has been excised, but there is a new disclaimer saying that a disclaimer was missing in the last filing:

“This amendment is being filed to add a statement which was inadvertently omitted from the original filing made on February 17, 2004. The statement which is on the 13F summary page is as follows: ‘Confidential Information has been omitted from the public form 13F and filed separately with the commission.’”

In other words, Berkshire hasn’t disclosed some positions that it actually holds. While Berkshire is an aggressive pursuer of such allowances from the SEC — it likes to claim that disclosing all its positions would put it at a competitive disadvantage — this one is baffling. Because if it means that Cadbury-Schweppes is the thing not being disclosed, then it’s too late — Berkshire already accidentally filed about the holding.

I’m not the only one confused. I see that Fortune columnist Andy Serwer has gotten all muddled about the difference between Lou Simpson, who runs the public-market money at Berkshire, and Berkshire itself:

As for “Buffett’s” purchase of some Cadbury Schweppes stock, my understanding is that was Lou Simpson, not Buffett.

Note to Andy: It is, of course, Simpson who owns the Cadbury stock, but Simpson is still part of Berkshire so the holding gets disclosed in the latter firm’s quarterly 13F. Mind you, it’s all secret so we don’t actually know any of this. I think.

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  1. Buffett disclosing some holdings