Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has had a tumultuous and unpredictable few years. What was usually predictable was his stock sale activity. Since 2015, when Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, vowed to give 99% of their Facebook shares over their lifetime to cure disease, improve education and more, he has sold hundreds of millions of dollars worth of stock every year, with the majority of the cash going towards financing his philanthropic and advocacy organization, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) However, in 2020, Zuckerberg hadn’t sold a single share of Facebook — until now.
In the past two days, Zuckerberg filed four new documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission showing that institutions he controls — including the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Foundation —sold $17.8 million worth of Facebook shares between November 5 and November 9. Just about $1.8 million of that (before taxes) were sales of shares he owns directly. Forbes estimates that since Facebook went public in 2012, Zuckerberg has pocketed about $1.3 billion from selling just a sliver of his stake in the social media giant; that figure includes estimated conservative investment gains on the money he’s netted from the sales.
According to CZI’s website, the organization — a limited liability corporation — has doled out $2 billion in grants and put $150 million into for-profit ventures since 2015. Its areas of focus include supporting science, education, criminal and social justice, and the Bay Area community. A spokesperson for CZI said that the share sales were part of a pre-determined plan that had been filed with the SEC.
The organization’s political advocacy arm, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Advocacy (CZIA), has also become a force in state politics this year, contributing a total of $14.6 million to certain California ballot measures. Around $10.8 million went to supporting the passage of Proposition 15, which would increase property taxes on businesses (including Facebook) in order to raise billions for schools and local government. While the vote still has not been called for Prop 15 — 87% of votes have been counted so far — it is projected to fail, with 51.7% of voters rejecting the measure.
Zuckerberg consistently ranks among the top ten wealthiest people in the world. He’s currently the world’s fourth richest person, according to Forbes, with a fortune worth $99.7 billion. The social media giant, which owns Instagram and Whatsapp, has been accused of spreading misinformation, hate speech, and erroneous political ads this year. Facebook has launched various initiatives in response, including a civil rights task force; it has also expanded its ban policies on ads that include “inflammatory” and “fear-mongering statements.” Nevertheless, Facebook stock has risen 33% so far in 2020, as of Monday’s close.