SEC Stops Executives From Quietly Selling Stock

The days of top executives dumping their company stock to protect their own wealth — while encouraging stockholders to keep investing — appear to be over. Beginning June 30, corporate insiders have two days to electronically report their transactions to the Securities and Exchange Commission Web site and to post the actions on their company Web site.

This replaces the old paper reporting system, which required regulators and the media to dig through mountains of paper at SEC headquarters to uncover fraudulent transactions. The old system also gave individuals up to 40 days to report their company-related stock transactions. Corporations themselves have been required to file their transactions electronically for some time.

The new regulation, mandated by Congress last summer and adopted by the SEC on April 24, is part of the cleanup campaign begun after it was learned that Enron officers disposed of hundreds of millions of dollars of company stock in 2000 and 2001 while continuing to encourage investors — including their own employees — to continue buying stock in what top officers knew was a sinking ship.

"This is going to help investors see if corporate executives are making rosy statements about the company while at the same time unloading the stock," SEC commissioner Cynthia Glassman said before the vote on the new rules, which allow investors to keep a better eye on the companies in which they hold stock. They can monitor their holdings through the SEC Web site as well as the Web sites of each company.

The SEC’s five commissioners also approved on April 24 new rules that prohibit company officers from pressuring or misleading auditors to falsify statements about a company’s financial position. This rule also stems from last summer’s legislation.

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