The stock market has been an unstoppable force in 2024, absolutely *shrugging* off concerns about inflation, recession risks, and geopolitical turmoil.

The S&P 500 powered past the historic 5,000 mark in late February and has continued chugging into uncharted territory ever since. Many retail investors have joined the relentless rally, convinced that this new bull market still has plenty of upside left.

However, an under-the-radar trend may be flashing warning signals that the smart money is headed for the exits. Despite the fevered buying from institutional and retail investors alike, corporate insiders have actually been cashing out at a blistering pace so far this year. SEC filings reveal that in Q1 alone, over $64 billion worth of shares were unloaded by officers and executives of public companies.

This frenzy of insider selling dwarfs the volumes seen at previous market peaks and represents one of the largest potential exits of corporate leadership in recent memory.

Are these insiders simply taking advantage of swollen valuations to diversify their holdings? Or do they know something that the mainstream investment community is missing about the unsustainability of this historic rally?

Let's dig into the biggest insider sellers of Q1 2024 to see if we can uncover the truth behind this mass exodus:

Biggest Insider Sells Q1 2024
Top 10 Biggest Insider Sells, Q1 2024

Insiders Selling Shares in 2024

According to SEC filings (ie. Form 4's which corporate executives are required to submit whenever they buy or sell shares) insiders have sold off a staggering amount so far this year. Here are the top 10 individual corporate officers and executives who have sold the most:

  1. Jeff Bezos - $8.52B Amazon sold
  2. Rob Walton - $1.80B Walmart sold
  3. Alice Walton - $1.69B Walmart sold
  4. Jim Walton - $1.69B Walmart sold
  5. Mark Zuckerberg - $1.59B Meta sold
  6. Michael Dell - $788M Dell sold
  7. Vince McMahon - $723 TKO sold
  8. Antony Ressler - $541M Ares sold
  9. Safra Catz - $347M Oracle sold
  10. Peter Thiel - $175M Palantir sold

Let's unpack a few of these to understand the significance of these sales:

Jeff Bezos (Amazon Founder) Sells $8.52B

Uncle Jeff has been the biggest seller this year by FAR. Bezos made a series of planned sales amounting to 50 millions shares of Amazon stock worth more than $8.5 billion between February 7th and February 21st. Why? It seems partly to do with a few things: 1) the market is high, 2) Amazon was up 12% on the year at that time, and 3) he recently moved from Seattle to Miami, which means he can sell without worry of Washington's 7% capital gains tax. And while $8.5B obviously is a crazy amount of money, the crazier part is that it only amounts to roughly 5% of his total stake in Amazon... sheeeesh.

Walton Family (Walmart heirs) Sell Collective $5B

The next biggest seller (or should I say sellers) have been the principal heirs of the Walmart fortune: Rob, Alice, and Jim Walton, the three surviving children of Walmart founder Sam Walton. The siblings each sold roughly $1.7 billion in shares through February out of their Walton Family Holdings Trust. Why? In part because the stock was also up 12% on the year at that point, approaching record highs. But mainly in an effort to keep their collective holdings in the company below 50% as part of a pledge made in 2016.

Mark Zuckerberg (Meta/Facebook founder) Sells $1.59B

After going almost two years without selling any Meta shares, Mark Zuckerberg has strung together a series of major sells dating back to November of 2023. In 2024 alone, Zuck's transaction values have amounted in more than 3 million shares sold, worth more $1.59 billion dollars. While filings reveal that Zuckerberg's sells were conducted under a trading plan announced months in advance, they certainly come at a convenient time given the fact that Meta's stock value had soared more than 186% over the 12 months leading up to his sales

Michael Dell (Dell founder) Sells $788M

Dell founder Michael Dell is another insider who has broken a trading hiatus in recent months. After more than three years without selling any shares, Michael Dell sold a record 25M shares worth more than $750M in March. This came as Dell stock approached record highs, riding on hype and optimism surrounding the company's prospects in the artificial intelligence realm

Vince McMahon (WWE founder) Sells $723M

WWE founder Vince McMahon is another major executive selling shares in 2024, albeit for different reasons than the rest. McMahon, who is the founder of WWE, has sold more than $723M in stock of TKO Group Holdings, the company formed by the merger of the WWE and UFC that is majority owned by Endeavor. McMahon is selling because he resigned from TKO's board in January after a series of sexual assault allegations -- which has recently resulted in an agreement for him to sell his stock.

Has the Insider Exodus Peaked?

While each of these major insider trades may look strategically planned ahead on the surface, zooming out reveals that the insider selling trend is a lot more widespread than just these 10 executives and officers.

Looking at all major buys and sells as a whole so far this year seems to show a compelling trend. Data compiled from SEC filings shows that for "mega" insider trades over $5 million in value, there have been roughly 10 times more sells than buys by corporate officers and executives year-to-date. Here's a timeline of insider mega-trades so far this year:

Count of Insider 'Mega' Sells by Date, Q1 2024
Insider 'Mega' Sell Volume by Date, Q1 2024

As you can see from the graphic, the peak of this massive insider selling frenzy occurred in early March, shortly after the S&P 500 crossed 5,000 for the first time ever. And while weekly mega-sell volumes have since declined about 75% from that peak, the lopsided insider transaction ratio suggests sentiment may have shifted bearish among those with an inside view of their companies' operations and outlook.

What's Next for the Markets?

If one thing's clear, it's that corporate executives and officers have been selling shares in a tidal wave so far in 2024, and that trend seems to have peaked in early March, roughly coinciding with the S&P 500 surpassing the 5,000 mark. Since then these trades have dropped off considerably.

Of course, insider selling can happen for numerous reasons beyond just bearish market sentiment. Diversification, tax planning, and personal liquidity needs are other common drivers. However, the sheer magnitude of this year's insider distribution stands out from historical norms and could be an ominous signal regarding equity valuations going forward.

To me, at face value this seems like as good a signal as any that the stock market is very high, and that it's due for a downturn at some point. The question, of course, is *when* that downturn may take place. As we've seen throughout history, frothy bull markets like this can extend for months beyond when most reasonable people would expect it to correct.

Some of this will surely be influenced by macroeconomic forces like inflation and the Federal Reserve's attempts to quell it with interest rates. These things will ultimately effect investor sentiment, and it seems reasonably likely that there will come a tipping point when sentiment turns negative and the markets go down with it.

But if I've learned anything through the years, it's that timing the market's top and bottoms is a gamblers game.

Insider Trade Alerts

Of course, while timing the market is hard, there are ways to stay a-tuned to signals of a frothy market like this. One of those signals is surely insider trades like this, and one of the best ways to be in-the-know about them is by setting alerts to be notified about them on Uptrends:

So if you haven't already, create an account on Uptrends and get notified about major market-moving events today: