Warren Buffett’s Top Stock Last Year Was the Bank He’s Been Bailing On

Warren Buffett’s best-performing stock last year? One he’s been dumping.

Wells Fargo & Co. shares delivered a total return of 61% last year, outpacing every other company listed in the most recent public snapshot of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s portfolio, as of Sept. 30, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That trounced the performance of the conglomerate’s two biggest bets, Apple Inc. and Bank of America Corp.

Buffett’s Berkshire will give investors an updated look at its holdings in coming days. Already, its filings show that Wells Fargo’s rebound was largely a missed opportunity. For years, the San Francisco-based bank ranked as the biggest equity bet by market value in Berkshire’s stock portfolio, and was routinely praised by the billionaire himself. But as the bank struggled to resolve scandals, Berkshire slashed its investment to roughly 675,000 shares by September from 323 million shares at the end of 2019.

Wells Fargo’s stock took off last year amid signs that Charlie Scharf is making progress in his efforts to turn the lender around. The chief executive officer and his team cleared some key regulatory hurdles, and full-year profit soared more than 10-fold after falling dramatically in 2020. Though Wells Fargo also had what it termed “setbacks” with watchdogs, it was the third-best performer in the KBW Bank Index of 24 major U.S. lenders in 2021 after ranking worst a year earlier.