Streetwise for Friday, June 16, 2017

Ok, I will admit that I have been a bit critical of the auction carried out each year for a lunch with Warren Buffett where the highest bidder and seven friends receive a private audience with the ìMaster.î Lunch is donated by Smith & Wollensky, along with a charitable contribution, for the privilege of hosting the event and receiving the inevitable publicity.

An online bidder on eBay, who was not named, will fork over $2,679,001 to break bread with the investment guru. All proceeds will be donated to the Glide Foundation, an organization that fights poverty and assists the homeless.

Anyone who contributes seven figures to charity is to be commended, no argument. Yet, I have always had this uneasy feeling that the winners hoped to gain more than just the good feeling that comes from donating a substantial chunk of disposable income to a worthwhile cause.

Surely anyone successful enough to have amassed the resources required for such generosity must realize that Buffett is not about to let slip some tidbit of information that would put him in violation of the full disclosure rule. Furthermore, any expectation of uncovering some previously undisclosed key to Buffett’s prodigious investment skill would be naïve to the point of ridiculous.

Buffett does not harbor some holy grail. He simply uses a modicum of common sense, backed by solid fundamental analysis that when combined with a very large piggy bank enables him to deftly put in place a desired investment with little fanfare and no need of financing.

Furthermore, every year in his annual letter to shareholders, Buffett reports his holdings, discusses their merits and shortcomings and details why they were selected. And many investment web sites claim to utilize the so-called Buffett selection criteria, a methodology that has been meticulously analyzed in countless books and articles.

I have been taken to task for being narrow minded and directing supposedly ‘humorous wit’ to cast disparaging annotations upon good hearted philanthropists. The implication being that I was too dense to see unadulterated idolatry at its finest.

A low blow came when I was told that nobody would pay a dollar to have lunch with me. I am not sure if I would pay a dollar to have lunch with me. However, in self-defense over the years I have raised thousands of dollars for various charities pro bono.

Am I being overly cynical? After nearly 50 years on Wall Street, I do find it difficult to†believe in altruism. Egos and puffery run rampant on the Street, along with an insatiable desire for personal gain. Barron’s once wrote that success or failure on Wall Street is measured only by how much money you make or lose.

In an attempt at redemption and salvation, I will again step up the plate, no pun intended. Be the first person to notify me that you have donated a minimum of $2,000 to Southeastern Guide Dogs (a tax-deductible charity), specifying your donation as votes for Happy Returns, one of SGD’s Puppies on Parade sculptures and I will treat you, a companion and four friends to dinner at a local restaurant of your choice. (Full disclosure: my firm sponsored Happy Returns.)

I will also invite both the artist who created the Puppies on Parade sculptures and the artist whose work created Happy Returns, along with one or more people from SGD.

During dinner, we can discuss my best investment ideas (many unpublished) for the sole purpose of increasing your investment acumen and success, along with anything you might like to know about SGD.

Make it a $3,000 donation and after dinner we will take in a performance at the Asolo Repertory Theatre or similar venue. If you are not a full or part-time resident of Sarasota, we will work out a suitable alternative.

Are there any conditions? Yes, but only two. You must have a receipt showing the donation was made during August of this year and only one donation per person or family unit.

Of course, the only publicity you are likely to receive is a tip of the hat in my column. However, you just might come out ahead financially and I know Southeastern Guide Dogs will.

Lauren Rudd is a financial writer and columnist. You can write to him at Phone calls accepted between 9 AM and 3 PM at (941) 706-3449. For back columns please go to

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