"When the economic tide goes out, you find out who is swimming naked” is a colorful quotation that’s often attributed to investor Warren Buffett. Buffett did use the phrase by at least 1993, but it was spoken by Comptroller of the Currency Robert L. Clarke in 1988.
The phrase is often used in bad economic times—“when the tide goes out”—and financial scoundrels are exposed.
Wikipedia: Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett (born August 30, 1930) is an American investor, businessman and philanthropist. He is regarded as one of the world’s greatest investors, and is the largest shareholder and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway. He was ranked by Forbes as the second richest American with an estimated net worth of $50 billion as of September 17, 2008.
Google News Archive
21 June 1988, Victoria (TX) Advocate, “Comptroller Says Some Banks Can Rebound Easier,” pg. 12B, col. 5:
“In other words, when the economic tide goes out, you find out who is swimming naked,” Clarke told the Stonier graduates.
(Comptroller of the Currency Robert L. Clarke --ed.)
Seattle (WA) Times
Sunday, April 4, 1993
Wall St. Recap
Buffett Buffet: Stocks, Bonds, Skinny Dipping
By Greg Heberlein
Ever get so excited your tummy turns upside down? Like when you got married or, better yet, took that first trip to Disneyland?
That’s how some react when Warren Buffett’s annual report from Berkshire Hathaway arrives. It’s so good, you hope it won’t end.
Buffett is one of the nation’s richest billionaires. (You can have the poor ones.) Fortunately, he can write well, too. His letter to shareholders runs about 20 pages each year. The business press treats it like the unearthing of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Only Buffett’s work is more entertaining.
This year, the Berkshire chief executive quoted such authorities as Santyana, Lewis Carroll and Abraham Lincoln. Some CEOs wouldn’t know who those guys are.
Writing about how larger insurance companies, hit by catastrophes, reconsider buying reinsurance: “It’s only when the tide goes out that you learn who’s been swimming naked.”
Wall Street Journal
HEARD IN EUROPE
NOVEMBER 27, 1997
Investors Reduce Holdings Of Banks Amid Asia Woes
By DEBORAH STEINBORN, CHRISTOPHER RHOADS and ROBERT BONTE-FRIEDHEIM | Staff Reporters of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
“You only find out who’s been swimming naked when the tide goes out,” echoed Roderick Jack, a hedge-fund manager at Adelphi Capital in London.
New York (NY) Times
INVESTING; High Technology’s Ebb and Flow
By RICHARD A. OPPEL JR.
Published: April 25, 1999
THE selloff in technology and Internet stocks that climaxed last Monday illustrated a Wall Street adage: When the tide goes out, you can see who has been swimming naked.
New York City • Banking/Finance/Insurance • (0) Comments • Tuesday, October 07, 2008 • Permalink