When the subprime mortgage collapse gathered speed two weeks ago, Eric Sieracki at Countrywide Financial (CFC) sought to calm his investors' nerves.
"This is the pain phase of a healthy cycle," the CFO said at an investment conference in San Francisco. "We've been through these kinds of cycles before and we've seen another day. ... We're a top-conditioned athlete."
Doubtless that's why his fellow executives and directors are throwing stock overboard on a heroic scale.
Insiders at Countrywide, the nation's largest mortgage lender, have sold $314 million worth of shares in the company just since August. That's according to regulatory filings tracked by Interactive Data Corporation.The sales include a staggering $94.5 million by chief executive Angelo Mozilo, and $17.5 million by mortgage division chief David Sambol. Naturally insiders are perfectly entitled to sell shares, and in the case of Countrywide Financial, the stock price has, at least, held up -- sort of. It's only fallen a fifth from its peak to $35.22. But it hardly makes you feel confident. It should be added that this is not something new. Insiders were also dumping stock heavily through 2004 and 2005. As they often have to exercise options before selling the stock, what they have pocketed will be less than $314 million. What's interesting is that the insiders at Countrywide are not alone.