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-- ExxonMobil taking down Wal-Mart to grab the top spot of this year's fortune 500 list.
Last week I asked Charlie Munger vice chairman of Berkshire Hathaway Warren Buffett's right hand man -- What he thought about ExxonMobil.
Some Exxon is a technical meritocracy.
Which is very -- place.
In other words -- more murder ram like -- that would be a better country.
A major thumbs up from Charlie Munger but let's get more joining me now for his reaction Steve call is two time winner.
Of the Pulitzer Prize and author of the new book private empire ExxonMobil.
And American power Stephen wonderful to have you thank you for being here.
I'm a little bit of clarification on this -- when you say we get the whole private empire but.
ExxonMobil an American power what do you mean American powers -- the big corporation that's very powerful.
Well I was interested in this world we live in where.
Large American headquartered multinationals.
Have a lot of influence around the world that's independent of the American government sometimes -- sometimes opposed.
Sometimes -- actually often just trying to do their own things so.
I'd I'd basically look at Exxon Mobil's global operations over the last forty years through that perspective.
OK Andy you conducted many many interviews any of them on the record from current company insiders.
The current folks stayed on background but the former chairman and chief executive Lee Raymond -- played a big role in.
What ExxonMobil is today is quoted on the record in the book.
Won't want what is good what is the nugget that you get out of this from all of those discussions as well as with Lee Raymond you know when you talk about this company.
How many people they employee etc.
but all that they are doing overseas is this.
A negative book is this a positive book is this a slam is it is it something to Revere.
I think -- side I just wanted to explore describe it accurately analytically and in some depth because it's not a company that.
Invites a lot of scrutiny and hasn't really been described it anyway -- -- do that thing that journalists do just try to get inside and and really to lay it out for breeders to interpret as there where's.
It is a very large institution the American society last year its revenues were north of 450 billion dollars -- -- more than that.
Economic activity -- a lot of countries so it's worth us taking a look at -- understand how it's organized.
You know at the top revenue generator of the fortune 508 was just named that so obviously it's doing unbelievably well.
Doing a lot of business in all kinds of nations where it's tough to do business Nigeria for example with all the rebels.
We know what's going on in Venezuela right now we're Hugo Chavez's nationalize it meaning just.
Other companies -- operations for example -- operated that way -- is ExxonMobil maneuvering around all of these moving pieces some of them with very sharp edges.
Yeah I think what you're describing is the basic strategic dilemma that ExxonMobil faces which is -- a very conservative company has such Charlie Munger said they're extremely.
Tight and they're disciplined their operations or finance they have -- very well organized.
They try to manage all the risk out of their operations that they can't but their business is driving them more and more into risky environment so into risky countries and unstable places in West Africa Venezuela but also into risky operating environments like deep water -- north of the Arctic Circle so there's that central tension between.
A very automated disciplined company and a higher and higher risk profile.
And how how do they do it and all especially because you spoke to Lee Raymond who was in charge of the company for so long.
Look we just saw Wal-Mart get burned in the foreign corrupt practices act because they were allegedly bribing a lot of people down in Mexico to get that edge.
Do you sense anything like -- it at ExxonMobil or as as secretive as they are they pretty much play by the rules.
I think they're very lawyer up -- are extremely careful about how they operate in these bad Dicey environments that they ran.
I think you're talking to specialists in the foreign corrupt practices act and having worked in these countries for a long time there -- actually ways you can accomplish your objectives.
In those countries without getting crosswise with American law but you have to be very careful and very disciplined to do it so.
Until evidence says otherwise I assume that that's the way they operate as well.
Date you know they get they have the great strengths of a very closed system may also suffer from some of the weaknesses they don't take a lot of outside advice in this sometimes get -- their own way because they.
They're not listening to the environment around the very carefully Steve.
-- author of private empire ExxonMobil and American power two time Pulitzer Prize winner Charlie Gasparino said.
Very good things about anything -- -- -- -- in the journalism world.
But -- Iraq starts there's -- pick up and he'll take that -- a bit about football field well and good luck thanks very much to to get the go through the --