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Berkshire Hathaway Slashes Wells Fargo Stake by More Than Half

By James Brumley – Sep 4, 2020 at 8:00PM

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The San Francisco-based bank remains mired in missteps discovered four years ago

Warren Buffett-led Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A 0.13%) (BRK.B -0.15%) continues to scale back on banking exposure. Regulatory paperwork filed late Friday indicates the investment company now owns a little more than 136 million shares of Wells Fargo (WFC -2.05%), down 101 million shares from the position held as of late June. That follows the sale of nearly 86 million shares of the stock during the second quarter of the year. All told, Berkshire Hathaway has cut its stake in Wells Fargo to roughly a third of its size a year ago.

Wells Fargo isn't the only bank Buffett and his proteges have been shedding of late. Berkshire's stakes in JP Morgan Chase and PNC Financial have also been significantly pared in recent months. Wells Fargo, though once one of the fund's biggest positions, has been Berkshire's most dramatic reduction of late.

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Image source: Getty Images

Poor performance may be a driving force of recent selling. Like most stocks, Wells Fargo tumbled shortly after COVID-19 began to spread in the United States. Unlike most stocks, Wells Fargo shares haven't recovered. The stock remains down more than 50% for the year, near multiyear lows.

That performance could partially reflect the continued impact of 2016's account-opening scandal. The company was penalized earlier this year with another $3 billion in fines related to the matter, but perhaps more problematic is the Federal Reserve's sanction that limits its growth by capping the value of the bank's total assets. That limit was temporarily lifted in the early days of the pandemic but will eventually be reinstated.

James Brumley has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Berkshire Hathaway (B shares) and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $200 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), short January 2021 $200 puts on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares), and short September 2020 $200 calls on Berkshire Hathaway (B shares). The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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