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Watching the "Insider Trades" Column of St. Louis Business Journal can provide insights into the confidence board members have in their own company. It is also a rare glimpse into the world of stock options. Typically, directors and officers, as part of their pay packages, have stock options allowing them to buy company stock. The option price is usually much lower than the market price so the buyer is getting a tremendous advantage over the rest of us. But hey, thatís almost fair. After all, they work for the company. There have to be some perks.
In the midst of 10 plus percent unemployment, some transactions just do not feel right. A bank stock rises because the Federal government kept the bank from going down the drain. Directors now buy shares of their bank at the low option price and sell those same shares at the government supported price. Our taxes paid for the rise in the stock price, but the bank director is the one sending his money off shore to a Caribbean tax shelter to avoid paying taxes on his freshly acquired government supported income. This whole business smells worse than a pina colada made with sour coconut milk.
I would like to see a new column in the Business Journal. I would title it: They Did Right Thing. It would tell the stories of local entrepreneurs who, in acts of selflessness and courage, forgo the quick buck or windfall profit that came at someone elseís expense and put the money back into the community. But, people who put the windfall into their own corporate charitable foundation would not receive even honorable mention. We might also read stories of people who chose not to dodge their tax responsibilities or lobby against tax increases, but chose instead to pay them, even giving up anti-tax campaigns because they knew that the city or county needed the money for better roads or schools.
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Mark Shook is Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Israel.