Omaha-based holding company Berkshire Hathaway Inc. has announced that it is terminating a charitable contributions program because controversy over some of the causes it funded has resulted in "harmful criticism" of a new subsidiary.
Established in 1981, the contributions program has distributed about $197 million to charities designated by holders of Berkshire's Class A shares. About 3,500 nonprofits a year received funding from the program, including the University of Nebraska and more than four hundred churches and synagogues. Recently, however, anti-abortion groups have targeted the company and its new kitchenware subsidiary, the Pampered Chef, because certain donations — including some made by Berkshire chairman Warren Buffett — have gone to Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights groups.
Faced with a boycott and reports that some of the Pampered Chef's independent salespeople had quit their jobs in protest, Berkshire Hathaway decided to end the charitable giving program "in the best interest of the company." Although the program's demise will likely hurt the organizations that regularly received funding, Berkshire Hathaway stated in its press release that its subsidiaries "will continue to support local charities in a manner consistent with what they have been doing."