After Trump’s Tax Bill, CEOs Rake In Millions in ‘Eye-Popping’ Stock Payouts, Politico Reports
During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump bragged that if he became president, “everybody is getting a tax cut, especially the middle class,” referring to his proposed 35 percent tax cut. President Trump’s actual tax bill, however, was vastly different from what candidate Trump mentioned in his campaign speeches. Seven months after the GOP tax bill went into effect, a Politico analysis of Securities and Exchange Commission data reveals that instead of enriching middle-class Americans, “Some of the biggest winners from President Donald Trump’s new tax law are corporate executives.”
These executives, Politico explains, “reaped gains as their companies buy back a record amount of stock, a practice that rewards shareholders by boosting the value of existing shares.” In addition to their salaries, many corporate CEOs and other high-ranking executives receive compensation in stock. Since the tax bill, which cut corporate tax rates to 21 percent, was passed on Dec. 22, 2017, these executives, according to Politico, “have been profiting handsomely by selling shares.”
Politico reports that “Wall Street analysts expect buyback activity to accelerate in the coming weeks.”
“It is going to be a parade of eye-popping numbers,” Pat McGurn, the head of strategic research and analysis at Institutional Shareholder Services, a shareholder advisory firm, told Politico.
All this is in sharp contrast to Trump’s promises of a tax cut that would benefit the middle class. What’s more, reports of already wealthy executives getting even richer off stock sales following the tax cut could, Politico observes, “undercut the political messaging value of the tax cuts in the Republican campaign to maintain control of Congress in the midterm elections.”
Democratic congressional candidates could easily create campaign ads highlighting how Oracle Corp. CEO Safra Catz sold $250 million worth of Oracle shares, the most shares sold by any executive. Or they could mention Mastercard’s Ajay Banga, who sold $44.4 million worth of stock one day in May, which, according to Politico, is “the largest single cash-out by an executive of the company in at least 10 years, months after the company announced a $4 billion buyback of its own stock.”
Politico found similar stock sales by executives from cigarette maker Altria, Eastman Chemical, biopharmaceutical company AbbVie, and TJX Companies (the parent company of TJ Maxx).
This practice of insider sales, Politico says, “feed[s] the narrative that corporate tax cuts enrich executives in the short term while yielding less clear long-term benefits for workers and the broader economy.”
Politico found that following the passage of the tax cuts:
Roughly 28 percent of companies in the S&P 500 mentioned plans to return some of their tax savings to shareholders, according to Morgan Stanley. Public companies announced more than $600 billion in buybacks in the first half of this year—already toppling the previous annual record.
Critics are also concerned about the connection between buybacks and insider sales. SEC Commissioner Robert Jackson, a Democrat, said that the link is clear. Politico reports: “He [Jackson] studied 385 buybacks since the beginning of 2017 and found that after half of them, at least one executive sold shares within the next month.”
Companies told Politico that critics were falsely looking for connections where there were none, defended the legality of the buybacks, or declined to comment.
Voters may not care about the intricacies of securities law, buybacks or insider sales. They might, however, care that the CEOs of major corporations are getting wealthier—as their own paychecks decline.