Insiders Sell High-Profile Stocks as 2014 Trading Comes to an End

It probably would come as no surprise to most stock market watchers that insiders have taken the opportunity this year to take some money off the table during what has been an outstanding market rally. With the 2014 trading year coming to an end last week, the pace of inside selling picked up a bit over previous weeks, as insiders and 10% owners continued to sell stock in time to put it on the 2014 ledger and tax forms.

Insider selling is covered each and every week here at 24/7 Wall St., and we like to remind our readers that just because insiders sell stock, that is not usually cause for immediate alarm. Many insiders, especially high-ranking executives, are compensated in-part with stock and stock options. They can be become overweight in their own company’s shares, and in many cases sell just for simple diversification.

Here are this past week’s top insider sales.

Adobe Systems Inc. (NASDAQ: ADBE) is a very well-known large cap software company that shows up for the third week running, and it shows up big. ValueAct Holdings, a 10% owner, continues to sell stock. This week its shed 700,000 shares of the stock at prices that ranged from $74.67 to $74.72. The total sale came to a whopping $52.3 million. Adobe shares closed trading on Friday at $72.34, so ValueAct pulled off a very well-timed trade.

Graham Holdings Co.‘s (NYSE: GHC) CEO decided it was time to sell some stock this week and took a large chunk off the table. Donald Graham sold 31,900 shares of the stock, which is very thinly traded, at prices that ranged from $880.10 to $884.40. The total sale came to a very sizable $28.1 million. The company owns network broadcast television stations in major U.S. markets. The stock ended the week at $860.94, so another well-timed sell.

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Keryx Biopharmaceuticals Inc. (NASDAQ: KERX) is another company in which the CEO decided it was time to lighten up on company shares. Ron Bentsur sold 338,977 shares at $13.98, for a total sale of a tidy $4.8 million. The biotech company focuses on the acquisition, development and commercialization of pharmaceutical products for the treatment of renal disease in the United States. The stock closed on Friday at $14.34, so some money was left on the table.

Ameriprise Financial Inc. (NYSE: AMP) continues the year-end chief executive parade of stock sales. James Cracchiolo sold 29,155 shares of the money management firm’s stock at $136.10 apiece. The total of the sale came to an even $4 million. Ameriprise shares were trading at $132.09 at Friday’s close, so very good timing on the trade.

Simon Property Group Inc. (NYSE: SPG) saw two high-ranking executives selling stock before year-end. Both the chief financial officer and the chief accounting officer of the commercial real estate giant sold stock. They parted with a combined 14,769 shares of stock at prices that ranged from $186.20 to $186.30. The total sale came to $2.8 million. The shares ended trading on Friday at $185.34, so another well-timed exit.

These companies also saw insider selling this past week: Acceleron Pharma Inc. (NASDAQ: XLRN), ACE Ltd. (NYSE: ACE) and XOMA Corp. (NASDAQ: XOMA).

Readers owning these featured stocks may want to know that, with the exception of Keryx, all are trading somewhat near striking distances of 52-week highs, so executives selling at these levels isn’t a huge surprise given the solid 2014 market run.

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