Corporate bosses have run wild during the pandemic.
In 2020, with the economy reeling, chief executives of struggling companies got their boards to move bonus goal posts and hand out “retention” awards to protect their fat paychecks while their workers lost jobs, income, and lives.
In 2021, as consumers struggled with rising costs, executives celebrated rising corporate profits with a buyback spree. This legal form of stock manipulation artificially inflates the value of a company’s shares—and the value of executives’ stock-based pay.
S&P 500 companies bought back a record $882 billion of their own shares in 2021.
This year, the buyback party could get even wilder. The seven big oil companies alone are on track to blow $38 billion to $41 billion on share repurchases in 2022, even as consumers face continued pain at the pump.
President Joe Biden’s federal budget proposal would put a damper on the buybacks party. The plan would prohibit top executives from selling their personal stockholdings for a multi-year period after a buyback (or buyback announcement).
This would prevent CEOs from timing share repurchases to cash in personally on a short-term price pop that they themselves artificially created.
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