Support Marketplace

Buffett insurance means no subprime

Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett listens during a hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Nov. 14, 2007.

TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: Warren Buffett is set to launch a new business today. The Wall Street Journal reports his Berkshire Hathaway will begin selling insurance on municipal bonds. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer reports.


Nancy Marshall Genzer: Bond insurers are safeguards for people who hold debt. The borrowers include cities, counties and states that need money for things like roads and schools.

But some big bond insurers also dabbled in slippery subprime investments. As a result, their stellar, triple-A credit ratings plummeted, and they're having trouble scaring up new business. Warren Buffett sees opportunity in the market for municipal bond insurance.

Ed Grebeck of Tempus Advisors says people will think:

Ed Grebeck: I know that Buffett, through Berkshire Hathaway and National Indemnity, are real triple-A. And since I'd rather buy protection from them I'm willing to pay them more.

Grebeck says people will pay a premium, especially since Buffett is expected to stay far away from the kinds of subprime financial shenanigans that got his competitors in trouble.

In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...