Even if 2004 wasn't the best year for your portfolio, it sure was for a lot of U.S. corporate executives and insiders. According to Thomson Financial data, last year was the second most lucrative on record for insiders as they sold $41 billion worth of their shares to the public, a figure that was up 40% from 2003. In contrast, insiders were buyers of only $1.45 billion worth of stock. That was the second lowest annual level since 1996, according to Thomson. If the differential between selling and buying sounds extreme, it is. The ratio between dollars of stock sold and dollars of stock bought by insiders was 28-to-1, the most bearish Thomson has recorded since the company started tracking the figures in 1990. Insiders were particularly active in their sales in the final three months of last year, dumping $12.8 billion on the public while only buying $342 million worth of stock. Thomson says the dollar sell-buy ratio, its top augur of executive sentiment, was a whopping 37-to-1 in the quarter. Among the biggest sellers were the top brass at Sirius Satellite Radio ( SIRI), who sold $31.2 million worth of shares to investors in December alone. The stock is off 22% since Chairman Joe Clayton sold $15.8 million on Dec. 22. Among the executives at other hot-stock companies, David H. Brooks of armor maker DHB Industries ( DHB) sent $106 million worth of his shares to the open market on Dec. 29. The stock is off about 20% since that sale. Technology executives and directors were among the least likely to buy their own companies' shares in December, adding only $3.8 million worth to their holdings, significantly trailing their $20 million buys in November. Meanwhile, insiders in the finance industry found their shares the most compelling, picking up $34 million last month. The few big companies at which large buys were made in December included Barnes & Noble ( BKS), where Leonard Riggio bought $737,194 in shares, while executives at Novell ( NOVL), Staples ( SPLS) and Kinder Morgan ( KMR) were also fairly active.