Easy money: Goldman Sachs execs pocket $55 million in insider sale

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To get a sense of what Goldman Sachs (GS) has pulled off in the last two years, consider:

Goldman Sachs was directly responsible for creating, marketing, and trading many of the toxic financial instruments behind the mortgage crisis and resulting recession. The bank's irresponsible behavior nearly caused its collapse, and taxpayers had to bail it out. Public funds saved Goldman Sachs, which this year is minting money and watching its stock soar.
Last month, two Goldman vice chairmen quietly sold $55 million worth of company stock and pocketed the cash.

And there you have it: from your IRS check to Goldman executives' bank accounts. And it's all legal. Congratulations, America.

The insider sale comes as Goldman emerges as a public symbol for Wall Street greed and excess. Nary a year after receiving a government bailout, the bank announced it will pay its millionaire bankers and traders some $22 billion in bonuses.

Goldman chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein has said the firm is doing "God's work," and that its success is good for America. And to ameliorate public anger, the bank has announced it will loan less than 1% of this year's bonus pool annually to small businesses. But that gambit may not work: the depth of outrage has apparently driven some Goldman workers to arm themselves.

Goldman's success, with a little help from the little people, has certainly been good for the two execs who sold $55 million in Goldman shares, as Dow Jones newspaper Barron'sreports. Goldman shares have risen 18% over the past six months, nearly to their level from before the market crash.

Back Up The Truck

In November, the execs -- Michael Evans, who runs Goldman's Asia operation, and Michael Sherwood -- sold more than 320,000 Goldman shares, according to SEC filings.

Evans, who has been with the bank since 2001, sold 140,00 shares between November 23 and 25, seeing $23.7 million in cash. Those shares constituted about 20% of his holdings in Goldman, excluding options and restricted stock. After the sales, Evans held 644,953 shares directly and 830,967 shares through exercisable options and restricted stock. Sherwood exercised options and sold 182,860 shares for about $31.9 million between November 13 and 24.

"At the end of the year, there's always a lot of tax issues for insiders, so you could attribute this to that," Ben Silverman, director of research at InsiderScore.com, told Barron's. "But it's very well known that Goldman employees are getting huge end-of-year bonuses. Everybody involved here should be getting a big influx of cash in the next few weeks."

For Goldman Sachs, at least, this is shaping up to be a very merry -- if heavily armed -- Christmas.
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