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Buffett Defends Coke Position At Berkshire Hathaway Meeting

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett came under fire this weekend at his company's annual shareholder meeting. The head of Berkshire Hathaway was criticized for not opposing aggressively enough Coca-Cola's lucrative executive compensation plan. But Buffett did show signs that he is still concerned about growing income inequality.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Berkshire Hathaway is Coke's biggest shareholder so Buffett's word carries a lot of weight at the company. He has said Coke's controversial compensation plan is excessive, but he declined to vote against it at a recent board meeting. Instead Buffett decided to abstain.

At this weekend's meeting, Buffett said he had expressed his unhappiness to Coke's chief executive but he also said, I don't think going to war is a very good idea in most situations. He also hinted there would be a change in Coke's pay policies over the next year or so.

In a separate interview Buffett, a longtime critic of wage inequality, also suggested he was ambivalent about how much to raise the minimum wage. But he told CNN he did favor an increase in the earned income tax credit, which goes to low-wage working people.

WARREN BUFFETT: It would fall on the federal government and it would be a form of taxation relief or a distribution in effect to people at the low end. But I think that's very appropriate in this society.

ZARROLI: Asked whether the federal government could afford to raise the credit, Buffett said if it can afford a $600 billion deficit, it can afford a $620 billion deficit.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.

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