A German manufacturing company is being investigated for fraud after allegedly conning the legendary US investor Warren Buffett into paying at least four times over the odds for its business by Photoshopping company orders and invoices.
In February 2017 a unit of Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc paid €800m (£715m) to buy Wilhelm Schulz, a family-run manufacturer of stainless steel based in Krefeld, western Germany – a rare foray into the world of family-run mittelstand companies for the tycoon, estimated to be the fourth-wealthiest person in the world.
After an anonymous tip-off by a whistleblower in May the same year, however, the US holding company began to question whether key documents had been doctored to create the impression of a booming business.
In reality, the company Buffett had just purchased was struggling and at risk of bankruptcy.
On 9 April a New York arbitration court ruled that the German company had systematically led investors astray in the run-up to the purchase and then tried to cover its tracks afterwards.