Stocks the Rich Executives Are Buying

Put five Fools in a room, ask them how they invest, and you'll likely get five different answers. Some like growth, others value, or small caps, or dividends, or, well, you get the picture.

Yet, while our styles differ, we all want excellent, engaged managers running the companies we own. We like it even more when these managers are also owners -- investors like you and me who, in trying times like these, are willing to buy as others sell. That's why I write this column weekly.

The week's buying
So which rich executives are buying now? Have a look, courtesy of our friends at Form 4 Oracle:

Company

Closing Price 3/11/09

Total Value Purchased

52-Week Change

Autodesk (Nasdaq: ADSK  )

$12.31

$304,230

(62.9%)

China Medical Technologies (Nasdaq: CMED  )

$13.97

$2,674,459

(63.7%)

SLM (NYSE: SLM  )

$3.95

$336,329

(79.9%)

VeriFone Holdings

$4.59

$1,264,637

(70.0%)

Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  )

$11.88

$969,250

(59.5%)

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

Is Wells Fargo well enough?
We know that Warren Buffett still likes banks. He said so on CNBC this week. But even if he likes US Bancorp (NYSE: USB  ) , he hearts Wells Fargo. Quoting from comments about Wells made during his TV appearance:

I would expect $40 billion a year pre-provision income. And under normal conditions I would expect maybe 10 to $12 billion a year of losses ... So, you know, you get to very interesting figures.

To be fair, both Wells Fargo and US Bancorp are Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK-B  ) holdings. And both have seen insiders buy shares. US Bancorp board member Marc Belton this week spent $62,000 to boost his stake in the company, for example.

But that pales compared to the buying at Wells Fargo.

Since March 5, chairman Dick Kovacevich and board member Richard McCormick have invested close to $1 million to boost their respective stakes in Wells Fargo. Kovacevich, in particular, made a huge bet by adding 100,000 shares at $8.05 apiece.

Yet we've seen this sort of buying before. Foolish colleague Morgan Housel, one of our top banking writers and analysts, expressed appropriate skepticism when insiders at Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE: JPM  ) , and, yes, Wells Fargo were buying in January.

So it's no surprise that Kovacevich's latest Big Bet doesn't impress him. "Wells Fargo is among the highest-quality banks these days, but that isn't saying much. I can't count how many times bank CEOs have tried to instill confidence, only to see shares fall, 50%, 80%, or 100% in short order," he wrote to me earlier today.

Our 130,000-person-strong Motley Fool CAPS community is a little more bullish than that:

Metric

Wells Fargo

CAPS stars (5 max.)

***

Total ratings

3,701

Percent Bulls

89.6%

Percent Bears

10.4%

Bullish pitches

550 out of 620

Data current as of March 12, 2009.

Yet there are detractors among the CAPS crowd. All-Star nihilkillsmemore this week questioned the veracity of Wells' assets

Stock will get diluted even more, assets DOUBLED WHEN THEY BOUGHT WACHOVIA. how much of that is in abs, non-residual mbs/cdo etc...who knows.... WHO CARES!!!, heads: stock gets diluted tails: it gets diluted even more.

Fair point. Wachovia imploded because of toxic assets. How do we know that Wells Fargo has properly disposed of them? I suppose that Buffett's confidence is as bullish a sign as there is, yet even the Oracle has been wrong before. He could be wrong this time, too.

I just doubt that he is.

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:

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is slowly improving his CAPS score. Thankfully, he's doing better as an analyst for Rule Breakers. Both the Inside Value and Stock Advisor services have recommended Berkshire Hathaway to subscribers. Try any of these Foolish services free for 30 days. CAPS is always free.

Tim, like The Motley Fool, owned shares of Berkshire at the time of publication. Check out his portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. Its disclosure policy knew a rich executive once. She never bought anything.


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  • Report this Comment On March 12, 2009, at 4:02 PM, DrRoberts1 wrote:

    While Morgan Housel dithers, Mr. Kovacevich and Mr. McCormick will be laughing all the way to the bank, Wells Fargo Bank that is.

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