Buffett: Apple should have disclosed Jobs' surgery

Warren Buffett says in a TV interview that a liver transplant is "material fact" that should be communicated to Apple investors.

Though Apple has chosen to remain quiet about the health of CEO Steve Jobs, a prominent investor criticized the handling of the situation.

In an interview on CNBC Wednesday morning, Berkshire Hathaway CEO and iconic investor Warren Buffett said Apple should have disclosed the seriousness of Jobs' illness, describing it as a "material fact" for shareholders of the company.

"If I have any serious illness, or something coming up of an important nature, an operation or anything like that, I think the thing to do is just tell the American, the Berkshire shareholders about it. I work for 'em. Some people might think I'm important to the company. Certainly Steve Jobs is important to Apple. So it's a material fact. Whether he is facing serious surgery or not is a material fact. Whether I'm facing serious surgery is a material fact. Whether (General Electric CEO) Jeff Immelt is, I mean, so I think that's important."

Buffett's criticism--which joins a growing chorus--resonates more than others perhaps since he has dual roles as the face of his company as well as an investor in others. In this case, he's clearly taking the side of the investors. A material fact, as he references, is information necessary to make an informed decision. For Apple investors, knowing how sick Jobs actually was--forcing him to take a six-month leave of absence and receive a liver transplant two months ago --could arguably help them decide whether to put their money in Apple stock.

However, Apple has wiggle room since there aren't strict legal guidelines for companies to follow in making decisions about how and what to disclose involving the health matters of their executives.

This is also not the first time Apple has kept quiet about the status of Jobs' health. In 2004, he hid a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer for nine months, secretly undergoing surgery, and not revealing it to employees and shareholders until after the fact.

About the author

Erica Ogg is a CNET News reporter who covers Apple, HP, Dell, and other PC makers, as well as the consumer electronics industry. She's also one of the hosts of CNET News' Daily Podcast. In her non-work life, she's a history geek, a loyal Dodgers fan, and a mac-and-cheese connoisseur.

 

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