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Deductio Ad Absurdum: CEOs Donating Their Own Stock to Their Own Family Foundations

David Yermack

New York University (NYU) - Stern School of Business

November 2008

I study large charitable gifts by Chairmen and CEOs of public companies using their own company stock as the donation currency. Unlike open market sales, gifts of stock are not subject to insider trading law and have very lenient disclosure requirements.

Consistent with their exemption from insider trading law, I find that CEOs' stock gifts occur just prior to significant drops in their firms' stock prices, a pattern that enables the donors to obtain increased personal income tax benefits. This timing is more pronounced when executives donate their own shares to their own family foundations, which I identify using foundations' IRS tax returns posted on Internet databases. Stock gifts are also strategically timed to occur prior to unfavorable quarterly earnings announcements and after positive earnings announcements.

Evidence related to reporting delays and seasonal patterns suggests that some CEOs backdate stock gifts to their own family foundations in order to increase personal tax benefits.

CEOs' family foundations hold donated stock for long periods rather than diversifying, permitting CEOs to continue voting the shares but violating standard prudent investor principles of risk reduction through diversification.

These results highlight an odd juxtaposition of motives, suggesting that while making charitable contributions to support good works in society, CEOs use aggressive and perhaps fraudulent tax evasion strategies.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 44

Keywords: stock gifts, tax compliance, backdating, charitable contributions, insider trading

JEL Classification: G34. H26, K22, M52

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Date posted: February 24, 2008 ; Last revised: December 1, 2008

Suggested Citation

Yermack, David, Deductio Ad Absurdum: CEOs Donating Their Own Stock to Their Own Family Foundations (November 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1096257 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1096257

Contact Information

David Yermack (Contact Author)
New York University (NYU) - Stern School of Business ( email )
44 West 4th Street
Suite 9-160
New York, NY 10012-1126
United States
212-998-0357 (Phone)
212-995-4220 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://www.stern.nyu.edu/~dyermack
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