The Value of Knowing Stuff Early; or: Are You Mad Yet?

Drew Harwell is reporting that three Equifax, Inc. executives sold millions in stock three days after they personally discovered the data breach recently noted in the news.

It took Equifax, Inc. sixty days to inform the public that personal information (including social security numbers) was breached for 143,000,000 individuals. That is 143 MILLION people with their SSN’s now floating around.

This stock sale was not reported in any public SEC filings made by Equifax, Inc.for restructuring plans made prior to the executives’ learning of the breach.

Logical Conclusion: The executives wanted to cash out before public outrage devalued their stock.

Are you mad yet? Would you be more mad if you knew the executive Joseph Loughran exercised a company option to buy 3,000 new shares at $33.60 /share (below market value) and then immediately sold them on the market for $146.02 for share.

And would you somehow get even more angry if you knew the shares those executives sold are now valued only at $123 a share and that price is plummeting from the news of the data breach?

It’s only a difference of approximately $200,000. That amount – which will grow as the stock continues to dive – is the value of the insider knowledge the executives had when they sold their stock.  They profited on the loss of your personal data and social security numbers by not telling you of the compromise so that they could profit before they (rightly) predicted the value of their equity would tank.  And one of them even bought low-cost shares to resell.

But, please, keep telling me how the free market works best without regulations and oversight.

As a Democrat, I’m not against the free market.  I like capitalism.  But I am under no delusion that the free market works efficiently and fairly unless each actor has as much information on the market and the other participants as possible.  This is what us lawyers call “arms-length negotiations.”  Commercial regulations, banking regulations, and financial regulations are not in place to stifle competition.  They are in place so bozos like these Equifax executives cannot profit on a greater position of knowledge to made decisions that the rest of us do not have.

This is why regulating Wall Street makes sense and why I will fight to support any and all requirements for disclosure, transparency, and truthfulness across all industries to make the free market work as it truly should.

— Chris Minelli