Who's Buying Now?

It's time again this week to check the most interesting recent insider purchases. After reading through numerous filings using insider tracking tool Form 4 Oracle, here are my top five today.

The week's buying

Company

Closing Price 7/23/08

Total Value Purchased

1-Year Return

Flagstar Bancorp (NYSE: FBC  )

$4.46

$188,012

(61.3%)

Marriott International (NYSE: MAR  )

$28.55

$472,590

(35.8%)

US Bancorp (NYSE: USB  )

$30.60

$2,697,200

1.6%

ValueClick (Nasdaq: VCLK  )

$10.74

$1,111,585

(64%)

Wachovia (NYSE: WB  )

$17.65

$16,085,100

(61.5%)

Sources: Fool.com, Yahoo! Finance, Form 4 Oracle, SEC filings

Whither Wachovia? (Again.)
I just don't trust Wachovia. Many times, the bank has been spotlighted in this column and, in each case, insider buying has meant less than nothing.

Rewind to last November. Executives had committed nearly $25 million in personal wealth over the prior week. Shares of the bank are down more than 50% since.

That's saying something. Wachovia surged 27% after reporting a worse-than-expected Q2 loss and slashing its dividend by 87%, joining other notables such as Washington Mutual (NYSE: WM  ) . (Care to kick an imaginary dog, too?) Interestingly, as the ugly turned hideous, new Wachovia CEO Robert Steel began buying shares -- one million of them at prices ranging from $14.80 to $17.06. Color me stunned.

And I'm not the only one. Morgan Housel, a close follower of all things banking here at the Fool, wrote to me earlier today: "I really don't know what to make of it ... I'm about as bearish on Wachovia as any other bank right now. They have all the problems as everyone else plus they have all the trouble related to the Golden West purchase."

Morgan is hardly alone in his bearish view. A large percentage of those who've rated Wachovia in our 110,000-strong Motley Fool CAPS community call it an underperformer:

Metric

Wachovia

CAPS stars (5 max)

*

Total ratings

2,042

Bullish ratings

1,328

Percent Bulls

65%

Bearish ratings

714

Percent Bears

35%

Bullish pitches

251

Bearish pitches

88

Data current as of July 24, 2008.

So what's behind Steel's bullishness? We don't know. We don't even know whether he is bullish. From Wachovia's last proxy statement:

To reinforce the long-term perspective of stock-based compensation and emphasize the relationship between stockholders and senior management, Wachovia's board implemented stock-ownership and share-retention guidelines for senior management and directors in 2002. This policy requires our executive officers to own shares of common stock having a value equal to five times base salary in the case of our CEO and Chairman. [Emphasis added.]

Steel's annual salary is $1.1 million, which means he's required to hold at least $5.5 million worth of stock. This week's purchase more than satisfies that requirement.

Still, given history and this week's rotten report, I can't join Steel in buying. There's still too much we don't know.

The value in ValueClick
Ever since Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) bought former Rule Breakers pick aQuantive for more than $6 billion, I've been wondering when peer ValueClick would attract a suitor. I've yet to see one.

What we have instead is a lower outlook. ValueClick recently lowered its full-year earnings guidance from $0.81 to $0.83 a share to $0.69 to $0.71 a share. Weak consumer spending is to blame, the Associated Press reports.

Yet insiders appear focused on the long term -- or, perhaps, the possibility of a buyout. Either way, they're buying: Four separate board members put better than $1 million in wealth on the line. Director James Zarley tripled his position with 100,000 shares at $10.24 apiece. Now that's commitment.

There's your update. See you back here next week, when we dig through more insider filings in search of the next home run stock.

Get the inside scoop on stocks of all sizes with related Foolishness:

Fool contributor Tim Beyers, who is ranked 18,141 out of more than 110,000 participants in CAPS, also writes for Rule Breakers. Get a daily dose of his Foolish musings through an RSS reader feed.

Tim didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article at the time of publication. US Bancorp is an Income Investor pick. Microsoft is an Inside Value recommendation. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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