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The so-called Sage of Omaha was in London to promote his jet timeshare company, although he broke off from the sales patter to share his views on the current market turmoil. In his usual folksy way, he proclaimed: 'It's only in the rinse cycle that you find out how dirty the laundry's been.'

A few days ago, I was lucky enough to interview Warren Buffett, the American billionaire whose ruminating on the markets have won him a huge following among small investors. Every year, they flock in their hundreds to Omaha, Nebraska, to hear the great man dispense some good old-fashioned Midwestern common-sense.

Buffett, incidentally, comes across as a thoroughly nice old boy, which is more than can be said for his army of sycophantic minders.

Judging by the amount of dirty linen pouring down the chutes of corporate America, the rinse cycle still has a long way to run. The filing of criminal charges against Andrew Fastow, Enron’s former chief financial officer, was enough in itself. In a 36-page criminal complaint filed in Houston, Fastow was accused of engaging in fraud, money laundering and conspiracy.

Fastow lashed out at the ‘gossip and lies’ surrounding the case, saying his work was directed by his superiors, led by former chief execs, Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling.

Americans have to put up with daily revelations about corporate sleaze.

The saga of Dennis Kozlowski and his $15,000 dog umbrella stand – shaped like a poodle, apparently – seemingly plumbed new depths. Then you read about the Rigas family and the way they allegedly treated Adelphia, the cable company, as their personal piggybank.

The American Laundromat looks like being choked for months to come. And it may be a while before Buffett starts recommending shares again.

  • Jon Ashworth, business features editor at The Times.

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