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Has the Oracle of Omaha lost his conscience? Warren Buffet, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, has distinguished himself as one of the foremost apologists for Goldman Sachs. At his company's annual shareholder meeting, he brushed off the bank's SEC fraud allegations.

“I haven’t seen anything in Goldman’s behavior that makes it any more subject to criticism than Wall Street generally,” he said.

 While some in the press agree with Buffett, many were surprised at his support for the bank. Pundits weigh in after the jump:

  • C'mon Warren, You're Better Than This, laments John Gapper at Financial Times: "Mr Buffett is... an enthusiastic pitchman for the companies in which he invests... He drank Coca-Cola and ate See’s sweets throughout the session - and he seems to have treated Goldman the same way. But investors trust Mr Buffett to distinguish between self-interest and the public interest - something his remarks in Omaha failed to do."
  • What Happened to the Old Buffett? wonders Ryan Chittum at The Columbia Journalism Review: "If there’s anything Buffett ought to condemn based on his past comments, it’s a toxic deal like Goldman’s Abacus, which was comprised of the very same derivatives the Good Buffett warned nearly a decade ago were 'weapons of mass destruction.' Now the same guy has a multi-billion-dollar portfolio of them."
  • He Defended the Credit Rating Agencies Too! exclaims Jill Schlesinger at Money Watch:
Buffett said the ratings outfits have “incredibly wonderful businesses,” and that their “pricing power is significant,” which may explain why Berkshire holds nearly 20% of ratings giant Moody’s.

What’s less easy to understand is how Buffett can defend an industry that downgraded to junk 91% of AAA-rated sub-prime mortgage-backed securities issued in 2007 (not to mention 93% of those issued in 2006). I don’t expect Buffett and Munger to dis the companies or industries that they own, but maybe saying a little less would have been preferable.

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