Reduce your stock's downside risk while preserving its full upside potential
Since the lows of the Great Recession in February 2009, the U.S. stock market has quintupled. Because of these gains, many investors find themselves owning highly-appreciated stock positions. However, for tax planning and other reasons, investors are often reluctant to sell these positions.
Continuing to hold a large concentrated stock position (without any form of risk management) is extremely risky. According to J.P. Morgan, between 1980 and 2020, more than 400 stocks were removed from the S&P 500 due to “business distress” – and 44% of Russell 3000 stocks suffered a “catastrophic stock price loss” (defined as “a 70% decline in price from peak levels which is not recovered).
At the same time, the traditional risk management techniques (e.g. put options, collars, and forwards) have become much more expensive due to the aftermath of regulatory change (Dodd-Frank) and the overall condition of the capital markets (historically low interest rates and unfavorable volatility skew). Therefore, investors today tend to employ these techniques opportunistically only in a short-term, tactical manner, leaving long-term stock positions unprotected against a very real, very large risk.
With the stock market near its all-time record high, investors who don’t wish to, or cannot, sell their highly appreciated shares are on the lookout for new tools to help them cost-effectively protect their unrealized gains.
The Stock Protection Trust (SPT) is a single-stock risk management capability that’s affordable, tax-efficient, simple to use, easy to understand, and completely transparent. The SPT empowers investors who are committed to continued ownership of some or all of their highly appreciated stock positions to inexpensively seek to preserve their gains on a long-term basis.
- SPTs are a unique approach to equity risk management
- SPTs are based on the time-tested principles of both Modern Portfolio Theory (MPT) and Risk Pooling
- MPT tells us that over time, there will be substantial dispersion in individual stock performance
- Risk pooling enables cost-effective spreading of similar financial risk across participants in a self-funded plan designed to protect against equity losses
- By combining the powerful benefits of MPT and Risk Pooling, SPTs fundamentally transform single-stock risk by enabling investors to “mutualize” – and thereby substantially reduce – a stock’s downside risk, while retaining all future price appreciation and dividend income, all at an affordable cost
Affordable Protection for Core Stock Holding
Investors with concentrated stock positions are often disinclined to sell more than a modest amount of their shares for a variety of reasons (e.g. tax and estate planning considerations, a belief the shares will appreciate further, an emotional attachment to the stock, etc.). Yet others must confront restrictions on selling imposed by securities laws or contractual provisions. Regardless of the reason, for investors who view their concentrated position as a long-term, core holding, the SPT offers greater assurance that a catastrophic drop in stock price won’t decimate their net worth.
The traditional tools investors have used to manage single-stock risk are tax-inefficient in that, generally, gains are taxed as short-term capital gains, losses aren’t currently deductible (i.e. they are deferred), and dividends are taxed as ordinary income. The SPT is tax-efficient; it doesn't trigger a constructive sale or constitute a straddle, and therefore any gain is long-term capital gain and any loss is immediately deductible, and dividends remain “qualified” and taxed as long-term capital gain.
Prudent and Timely Stock Protection
For investors who don’t want to, or cannot, sell their highly appreciated shares, the SPT can deliver powerful results. First, investors can help protect their accrued stock gains. Second, investors are able to defer the capital gains tax (and potentially eliminate it by holding the shares until death to achieve a stepped-up tax-cost-basis). Third, investors get to keep all future appreciation and dividends earned on their shares.
Easy to Understand
The Stock Protection Trust is much simpler, easier to understand, and more transparent than traditional solutions (e.g. variable-share prepaid forwards). Investors don't need to pledge or encumber their shares in any way and can custody their shares anywhere they wish. Importantly, investors retain the freedom to sell their shares anytime they wish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Stock Protection Trusts are designed for investors who don't want to, or cannot, sell their stock positions. While still retaining all of your stock's unlimited upside potential, the SPT substantially reduces your risk of suffering an unexpected large loss. According to J.P. Morgan, between 1980 and 2020, 44% of Russell 3000 stocks suffered a permanent decline of 70% or more from their peak value. Many of these were stocks thought to be "safe" and incapable of losing substantial value.
Cash contributions to the Stock Protection Trust vary depending on the risk level of the protected stocks. If all 20 stocks gain in value over the 5-year term of the SPT, cash contributions are fully refunded, in which case the only cost would be a one-time upfront placement fee (as low as 1% of protected stock value) and the annual trust administration fees (as low as $2500 per year which are generally covered by the yield on the Cash Pool).
Any one investor setting aside cash lacks the benefit of risk pooling, which is the key benefit of the SPT strategy. If you set aside cash yourself, in the event of loss, only your own money will be available to reduce your loss, rather than the combined pool of deposits from all participants in the SPT.
SPTs are only available to Accredited Investors, who are, for our purposes, individuals with a net worth of at least $1 million (not including the value of their primary residence) or individuals who have had an income of at least $200,000 each year for the last two years (or $300,000 together with their spouse if married) and have the expectation of making the same amount this year.
Yes, there is an "inspection period" similar to that of an exchange (i.e. swap) fund, during which time each potential investor receives a list of the other stocks to be protected by a given Series of the Stock Protection Trust. During this inspection period, each investor has the right to “opt-out” if for any reason he/she is not comfortable with any of the other protected stocks. There is no penalty associated with opting-out.
Participants are free to do as they wish with their shares throughout the term of the Stock Protection Trust (e.g. sell or borrow against them, write covered calls against them, gift or donate them, etc.).
Investors who sell their shares prior to maturity of the Stock Protection Trust remain investors in the fund; their cash remains in the cash pool, and they are still entitled to any cash distribution they would otherwise be owed at maturity, regardless of whether they still own their shares.
All distributions are based on the performance (Total Shareholder Return) of the 20 protected stocks over the term of the trust.
Stock Protection Trusts can perhaps best be thought of as the inverse of Exchange Funds.
An Exchange Fund enables investors to mutualize, and thereby reduce, single-stock risk; investors obtain the benefit of diversification similar to that achieved through an investment in a mutual fund. Economically, it’s as if each investor sold his or her shares tax-free and immediately reinvested the proceeds into a diversified portfolio. Going forward, each investor is exposed to the upside potential and downside risk associated with the portfolio, rather than solely to the stock that was contributed.
In contrast, the Stock Protection Trust enables investors to continue to own their shares and retain all of the upside potential of their stock positions while mutualizing only the downside risk. Investors, each owning a different stock in a different industry, contribute a modest amount of cash (not their shares, which they continue to own) into a fund that will terminate in five years. The Cash Pool is invested in U.S. government bonds that mature in five years, and upon termination, the Cash Pool is distributed to investors whose stocks have lost value on a total return basis, using a patented methodology. Losses are paid until the Cash Pool is depleted. If the Cash Pool exceeds total losses, all losses are eliminated, and the excess cash is returned to investors. If, on the other hand, total losses exceed the Cash Pool, large losses are substantially reduced.
An Exchange Fund could be useful for investors and trusts which own highly appreciated stock, and wish to exit completely from their positions in a tax-efficient manner, so that they can diversify into a portfolio of other publicly traded stocks. This could be appealing to investors who have turned bearish on the highly appreciated stock positions they own.
On the other hand, the Stock Protection Trust could be beneficial for investors and trusts which hold highly appreciated shares and would like to continue to own their positions to capture future appreciation and dividend growth but would like to help safeguard their unrealized gains. This may be attractive to investors who remain bullish on their highly appreciated stocks.