WARREN BUFFETT STILL SEEKING AUTO LOOPHOLE
Paxton opinion denies semantic change that would offer legal cover.
Billionaire Warren Buffett has encountered another roadblock in his effort to maneuver around a Texas law that is jeopardizing his continued ownership of more than two dozen automobile dealerships in the state, and he might be running short of options.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton put up the latest obstacle this week, issuing an opinion in which he declined to provide legal cover for a semantical fix that potentially would have enabled Buffett to comply with the state law without changing his ownership structure.
“It is somewhat unfathomable that there will not be some kind of solution here,” said Cliff Banks, an automobile industry analyst based in Detroit. “I think people will be shocked if Texas cannot come to some sort of agreement or figure this out.”
Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway conglomerate has run afoul of a Texas law that prohibits motor vehicle manufacturers from also owning dealerships, even if the vehicles aren’t of the same type. Berkshire Hathaway owns a dealership unit — Irving-based Berkshire Hathaway Automotive — and also owns Forest River Inc., an Indiana company that makes RVs.
Proponents of the Texas regulations, including the politically powerful Texas Automobile Dealers Association, say the rules safeguard consumers by preventing automakers from establishing retail monopolies. Critics of the law say it’s a protectionist measure designed to ensure dealerships continue to operate as third-party middlemen.
The law is the reason Tesla Inc. is prohibited from selling the electric cars that it makes directly to