Buffett's Puppet (2): Ben Nelson, Wife Own as Much as $6 Million in Berkshire Stock

By Jonathan D. Salant and James Rowley
Bloomberg BusinessWeek | April 27, 2010

April 27 (Bloomberg) -- Senator Ben Nelson, who supported an exemption to proposed derivatives rules sought by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc., owned as much as $6 million worth of stock with his wife in the Omaha, Nebraska-based company, financial disclosures show.

A Nebraska Democrat, Nelson reported last year that he owned between $500,000 and $1 million of stock in Berkshire in 2008, and his wife owned between $1 million and $5 million. Senators report their holdings each year in broad ranges. New financial disclosure reports are due May 15.

Nelson and his wife, Diane, owned more shares in Berkshire than any other member of Congress, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group.

The senator, 68, said his ownership of stock in Berkshire, a Nebraska company with “probably hundreds of thousands of shareholders,” didn’t pose a conflict of interest or an appearance of ethical impropriety. He said he had owned the stock since before he became governor and his wife had been a Berkshire stockholder for 30 years.

“It doesn’t influence my decision at all; never has, never will,” said Nelson, who was governor from 1991-1999.

Berkshire sought a provision that would exempt previously written derivatives contracts from proposed rules on collateral, according to a Democratic aide speaking on condition of anonymity. Berkshire owns derivatives tied to about $63 billion in assets.

Main Street Concerns

Asked whether the derivatives issue would cause him to vote against the financial overhaul legislation, Nelson said, “I am looking to be in favor of the bill, I just want to make sure it does in fact deal with the Wall Street issues and not overextend to deal with Main Street issues that are not part of the problem.”

Nelson said earlier today that he and his staff spoke with Berkshire Hathaway representatives, not Buffett, “all along the way” in order “to understand the issue and why it’s important.” ...

CONTINUED

http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-04-27/ben-nelson-wife-own-as-much-as-6-million-in-berkshire-stock.html