On Sept. 21, 2001, rescuers dug through the smoldering remains of the World Trade Center. Across town, families buried two firefighters found a week earlier. At Fort Drum, on the edge of New York’s Adirondacks, soldiers readied for deployment halfway across the world.
Boards of directors of scores of American companies were also busy that day. They handed out millions of bargain-priced stock options to their top executives.
A review of Standard & Poor’s ExecuComp data for 1,800 leading companies indicates that from Sept. 17, 2001, through the end of the month, 511 top executives at 186 of these companies got stock-option grants. The number who received grants was 2.6 times as many as in the same stretch of September in 2000, and more than twice as many as in the like period in any other year between 1999 and 2003.
I find myself surprised at the instinctive greed this story reveals to us. As Mr. Ritholz says:
What makes this so pathetic is that corporate executives could have stepped up AND BOUGHT STOCKS IN THE OPEN MARKET if they believed they were so cheap. It would have been reassuring to a nation to see the leaders of industry voting with their own dollars.
In 1929, when the stock market crashed, JP Morgan (and others) stepped in. They bought stock with their own dollars, they saved Wall Street. Oh, and they were rewarded for it — both monetarily, and in the history books.