Insider buying is a well-known sign of confidence. Another gauge of insider sentiment is talent flow -- movement from one company to another.

Judy Lewent, who joined Dell's (Nasdaq: DELL) board of directors in 2001, will not run for re-election. Dell stated she's resigning "to devote more time to other business responsibilities."

While her decision may not be a red flag, at a minimum it indicates she thinks other business activities will be more rewarding and/or less risky. What might those be? Well, she recently joined the board of GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK). She remains on the boards of Motorola Solutions (NYSE: MSI) and Thermo Fisher Scientific (NYSE: TMO).

Buy, hold, or sell?
In stock rating terms, you might say Lewent decided to:

  • Buy GlaxoSmithKline,
  • Hold Motorola Solutions and Thermo Fisher Scientific, and
  • Sell Dell.

What does Lewent know? A finance whiz, she was CFO of Merck. On Dell's board, her responsibilities included chairing the finance committee and serving on the audit committee. Therefore, it's reasonable to conclude her decision to reallocate time from Dell's board to GlaxoSmithKline's is not a call on the computer industry or Dell's competitive situation. Given her long tenure with Dell, it's also unlikely that there was a poor cultural fit.

Perhaps Lewent decided Merck had a more favorable outlook than Dell. Financials reveal a lot about a company's health. Board members also get special insights into strategy and management talent. If board members aren't better informed than most investors, they should be. Furthermore, stock options or restricted stock typically make up about half of board members' hefty compensation. There's much more upside to serving on boards with rising stock prices. Lewent may be just hoping to make more on stock gains by switching boards.

That said, the departure of someone intimately familiar with corporate financials is always disconcerting. The Securities and Exchange Commission began investigating Dell's accounting in 2006. Dell settled in 2010. Lewent served on Dell's board during the entire time. That suggests either there is nothing to worry about now or something worse could be on the way.

Foolish takeaway
It's hard to get a positive read on Lewent's resignation. It's a bit odd on the heels of recent earnings improvements. At a minimum, her recent decision to join a different board suggests she sees better stock prospects elsewhere.

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Fool contributor Cindy Johnson does not own shares of any company named above. Thermo Fisher Scientific is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. GlaxoSmithKline is a Motley Fool Global Gains choice. The Fool owns shares of GlaxoSmithKline. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.