Wall Street’s top brass have cashed in on Donald Trump’s election victory bigly, selling nearly $100 million in their own banks’ stocks since Nov. 9.
That’s The Wall Street Journal‘s conclusion after raking over stock exchange disclosures from the banks in the last two months. As banks only have to disclose the trades of a small number of top managers, the actual volume of shares sold could be much higher.
Shares in banks and other financials have been some of the biggest beneficiaries of the “Trump Bump” since the election. The prospect of looser regulation and faster growth (and therefore higher interest rates) has changed the outlook radically. Investors such as Steve Eisman, who figured as an arch-bear in Michael Lewis’s best-seller about the subprime crisis, The Big Short, is now predicting “a golden age of investing in financial stocks.” Inevitably, CEOs sitting on large amounts of earlier stock awards are among those profiting most.
The WSJ said Morgan Stanley’s chief executive James Gorman was one of the most active sellers, making a profit of at least $8.4 million after a number of transactions including the exercise of options awarded in previous years. Gorman had bought $2 million in Morgan Stanley (MS) stock back in 2011, when the share was trading at less than $21. He got an average of $37.70 for the shares he sold since Nov. 9, according to the WSJ.
The WSJ also said that J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) executives collectively sold $20.5 million of their bank’s stock in the same period, while Goldman Sachs’s sold even more—$25 million.
Trump’s victory was a particularly welcome development for Goldman Sachs (GS) staff because the rally in the bank’s shares that followed took it above the $199.84 strike price for options granted in 2006, only days before they would have expired worthless.
On the eve of the election, Goldman’s share price closed nearly 10% below that levee at $181.92. They rallied to over $241 in the month that followed, giving the option holders a chance to lock in immediate profits of up to 20%.
Goldman awarded $72 million in restricted stock in 2006, according to its annual report. The WSJ calculated that, in all, Goldman staff became eligible to buy at least $500 million worth of stock at below-market prices as a result of the rally.
The downside, of course, is that stock awards granted by the big banks in 2016 will now have a much higher strike price derived from a surge in optimism that may prove to be short-lived.
Meanwhile, the initial burst of market enthusiasm that greeted Trump’s victory has ebbed in recent days as concerns about the new President’s trade policies have mounted. Financial stocks have already started to trim their gains: Goldman is more than 5% off its peak, Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan are off 4%, and Citigroup (C) nearly 9.5%. But they’re all still up sharply from the last day when people thought Hillary Clinton would be the next President.