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The Wall Street Journal: It’s not just Elon Musk: Corporate insiders sell stocks at historic levels as market soars

Company founders and leaders are unloading their stock at historic levels, with some selling shares in their businesses for the first time in years, amid soaring market valuations and ahead of possible changes in U.S. and some state tax laws.

So far this year, 48 top executives have collected more than $200 million each from stock sales, nearly four times the average number of insiders from 2016 through 2020, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from the research firm InsiderScore.

The wave has included super sellers such as cosmetics billionaire Ronald Lauder and Google
GOOGL,
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co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, who have sold shares for the first time in four years or more as the economic recovery fueled strong growth in sales and profit. Other high-profile insiders—including the Walton family, heirs to the Walmart Inc.
WMT,
+1.39%

 fortune, and Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc.
FB,
-0.22%

 —have accelerated sales and are on track to break recent records for the number of shares they have sold.

Read: Elon Musk exercises more options, sells another $1 billion of Tesla stock

Across the S&P 500, insiders have sold a record $63.5 billion in shares through November, a 50% increase from all of 2020, driven both by stock-market gains and an increase in sales by some big holders. The technology sector has led with $41 billion in sales across the entire market, up by more than a third, with a smaller amount but an even bigger increase in financial services.

Also: CEO Satya Nadella sells about half of his Microsoft shares

“What you’re seeing is unprecedented” in recent years, said Daniel Taylor, an accounting professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School who studies trading by executives and directors. He said 2021 marks the most sales he can recall by insiders in a decade, resembling waves of sales during the twilight of the early 2000s dot-com boom.

An expanded version of this report appears on WSJ.com.

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