Selling The Top: Silvergate Execs Cashed Out $103M As Bitcoin Peaked

Silvergate execs managed to time the top of the bull market pretty well — as did insiders at other major crypto firms

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Source: Shutterstock / Formatoriginal, modified by Blockworks

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Silvergate is over. Investors are likely sad, short sellers probably grinning, but 11 insiders at the one-time major crypto bank sold out big at the top — raking in more than $103 million.

Former chairman Dennis Frank, who led the board between 1996 and 2021, made up about 25% of those sales. 

Frank sold almost 189,000 shares between March and November 2021 for $140 each, on average. That was peak bull run, when bitcoin was worth as much as $69,000 and Silvergate stock as much as $220.

Silvergate stock now trades for under $4. It announced this week it would close down for good and enter liquidation. The firm had struggled to maintain customer confidence after one of its key clients, FTX, went belly up last November, leading to billions in withdrawals.

Executive vice president Derek Eisele and CEO Alan Lane also cashed out stock at the top, $20.6 million and $17.1 million, respectively, per OpenInsider data, which relies on SEC filings.

Other sellers around that time include Chief Strategy Officer Ben Reynolds ($2.5 million) and Chief Operating Officer Kathleen Fraher ($2.8 million).

(For the purposes of this article, “selling the top” was liberally defined as being between two dates: Jan. 1, 2021 and May 1. 2022 — which captures bitcoin starting out at $30,000, two major price peaks and its return to $30,000.)

Silvergate insiders clustered their sales at the top, getting around $133 per share on average

Altogether, the value cashed out by Silvergate insiders at the top represents 4% of the firm’s average market capitalization ($3.6 billion) throughout the crypto market peak.

Some had bought stock on the way up, particularly CEO Lane and director Thomas Dircks, who’d spent nearly $250,000 on 167,477 shares in Nov. 2019, spending on average $12 per share among smaller trades on other dates.

Lane later sold nearly 178,000 shares for $18.6 million between Jun. 2021 and Jul. 2022, for an average price of $104.75 — nearly 800% above his earlier average purchase price (Lane, along with other executives, continued to receive stock options throughout this period).

One executive, Michael Lempres, tried to buy the dip, spending $56,100 in Feb. 2022 on 500 shares. Those same shares are worth $2,000 today. He hasn’t yet disclosed any sales with the SEC.

Silvergate insiders are not alone 

Together with executives at direct rival Signature, bitcoin-hungry software firm MicroStrategy, Block (formerly Square), as well as miners Marathon and Riot, 41 crypto insiders sold $661.4 million in shares as markets topped during the last bull run, averaging out to more than $16 million each.

Some sales were part of pre-lodged trading plans with the SEC (but not all). And that’s not even counting Coinbase, which went public as markets frothed in Q2 2021.

Bitcoin-forward fintech Block (SQ) saw $151 million in insider selling across the same period

Coinbase execs together cashed in more than $5 billion on its first day of trading alone, although those sales were a function of its direct listing, so shouldn’t be compared to the other stocks.

Updated at 2:52 pm, ET: Corrected figures.


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