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Jul 23, 2009
Washington State
Amtrak is owned in part by BNSF, which is owned by Warren Buffett. In for-profit companies, investors often fill multiple board seats.

Why aren’t they begging him to be on the board?

In my job, I handle board of directors matters for multiple for-profit corporations. Agreed that it’s not the board’s job to micromanage but the board’s role is to approve (1) material decisions by the company and (2) hiring, firing and pay of senior management, and the board should be kept informed of company financial information, customer trends, projections and other key information.

If Amtrak had experienced transportation-industry leaders filling its board, that would help.
The stock that Amtrak issued to the railroads that joined it in 1971 is a preferred stock without voting rights. It was issued on the off chance that if Amtrak ever turned a profit the initial stakeholders would get some. It was basically a fig leaf at best and does not confer, nor was ever intend to confer, any control or oversight of the NRPC. That control is basically vested in the US Government appointed board.

PS, Cincinnati based American Financial Corporation, the corporate successor to Penn Central and owner of PC's Amtrak shares sued Amtrak about lack of financial performance and control. They lost. While I don't recall that much about it, I am pretty sure the courts held Amtrak is owned and controlled exclusively by the US Government. To my recollection that was the sole attempt to get any return off Amtrak stock. The railroads themselves pretty much wrote it off as useless Day One (American Financial is a holding company primarily of insurance companies, never remotely involved in railroading).

BNSF is not a partial owner of Amtrak. They are entitled to a share of Amtrak's profits, should there ever be any. That's it.
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