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Don't Worry About Insider Selling ... Usually

Motley Fool Staff
January 6, 2006

Should you be worried about insider selling at a company in which you own shares? Not necessarily. Imagine that you're a shareholder in Carrier Pigeon Communications (ticker: SQAWK) and its CEO, Frederick Shmedrick, has filed to sell 20,000 of his shares of company stock. This is insider selling. Does it mean that Carrier Pigeon is in trouble? Does Fred know something the rest of us don't know? Should we all sell our shares of SQAWK?

Many investors might worry about this, thinking that it's a bad sign. But the truth is that insider selling isn't necessarily something to fret about. Let's think about why Fred might be selling.

Maybe he really does think the company is in trouble. Or, maybe he believes another investment holds better promise. Or, possibly he just needs the money -- to buy a house, to pay for his son Oswald's college education, or to bid at Sotheby's for Theodore Roosevelt's gilded ashtray.

Another reason many executives sell their shares is that stock options are the major component of their compensation package. This is particularly true at upstart technology companies. Some of these managers have worked for the company for a long time and have been fed stock options by the board of