Quick Reminder: Insider Trading Does Not Maximize Shareholder Value

The NYT had an interesting piece on how top executives and corporate board members at drug companies working on coronavirus vaccines and treatments are cashing out options and selling stock just after big announcements of contracts or progress in research. While there are no explicit allegations, the implication is that many of these sales are based on inside information.

From this morning's Times article:

They are making millions of dollars after announcing positive developments, including support from the government, in their efforts to fight Covid-19. After such announcements, insiders from at least 11 companies — most of them smaller firms whose fortunes often hinge on the success or failure of a single drug — have sold shares worth well over $1 billion since March ...

Some companies are attracting government scrutiny for potentially using their associations with Operation Warp Speed as marketing ploys.

It is widely asserted in policy circles, especially by those on the left, that corporations are being run to maximize shareholder value. I have argued that corporations are actually being run to maximize the pay of top executives and pointed to the historically low returns to shareholders in the last two decades. If insider trading is in fact a major phenomena, it is hard to argue that companies are being run to maximize returns to shareholders, since insider trading effectively means top executives are stealing from the companies they run. 

Disclosure: None.

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