The tech chief, who also happens to be one of the strongest supporters of stock-based compensation plans for employees, sold 1.5 million shares last week for a net gain of $18.8 million, according to a filing with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
His sales are part of a so-called 10b5-1 prearranged insider stock-sale program that Chambers filed with the SEC a year ago. The plan allows Chambers to sell more than $300 million worth of shares over four years.
For Cisco's fiscal year ended last month, Chambers sold 4.1 million shares, netting him about $52.8 million after the cost of exercising the options. Over the last fiscal year, Chambers also has added more than 1 million shares to his holdings, which now total 3.18 million shares and options underlying an added 30.2 million shares, according to filings.
Cisco shareholders haven't enjoyed as profitable a year as Chambers has.
The stock is down 7% over the last year. And critics say the company isn't exactly doing its stakeholders any favors by using
profits to buy back stock issued to employees.
Last quarter, the company spent $2.5 billion on stock buybacks. Cisco has now spent a total of $19.3 billion on share buybacks since 2001, cutting its outstanding share count by 13.4%.
"They keep buying back stock, but new ones are coming off the conveyor belt as fast as they can mop them up," says 2nd Opinion Research analyst Albert Meyer.
For companies with aggressive stock compensation plans like Cisco's, Meyer likens the buyback of shares issued largely to employees as a form of deferred compensation.
But a Cisco representative defends the policy, saying the company believes "share repurchasing, strategic acquisitions and a strong cash balance are in the best interest of shareholders."
Cisco and Chambers have been strong opponents of new accounting rules that require companies to report the cost of employee stock options. For example, options expensing would have
slashed earnings in fiscal 2004 by $1.21 billion, or 28%.
But Cisco is still fighting the option-expensing battle. The company is trying to reform the valuation formula used under the Black-Scholes accounting method.
For now though, says Meyer, Cisco is still stuck on a treadmill.
They pay employees with a coupon, the cost is not recognized, then they "go to the back door and buy back the coupon with so-called record earnings," says Meyer. "It's legalized plunder."