Intel CEO sold $39 million in company shares prior to disclosure of CPU security flaws

A security flaw in Intel CPUs recently came to light that the company did its best to downplay, even as it put off releasing a comprehensive statement amid rising concerns about the possible performance impact of a fix. It's impossible to quantify how bad the situation actually is at this early point, although obviously it's not ideal.   

What may be worse, however, is news that Intel CEO Bryan Krzanich unloaded millions of dollars of Intel shares—the maximum amount he was allowed to sell, in fact—after security researchers revealed the flaw to Intel, but before it became widely known to the public. An Intel representative told MarketWatch that the sale was unrelated to the security vulnerabilities, and the sale was made as part of a 10b5-1 plan, which as Investopedia explains is a mechanism that helps corporate insiders avoid accusations of insider trading by setting up plans to sell predetermined numbers of shares at a predetermined time. 

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In this case, Krzanich set up the plan just a month before the shares were sold, in the period between Intel's initial discovery of the exploit, but before its public disclosure. That in itself is not evidence of wrongdoing, and it's worth emphasizing that he is not facing any accusations of impropriety. However, the circumstances surrounding the sale may attract the attention of the SEC, particularly given its value, which was in excess of $39 million.

If it does opt to investigate, the scrutiny won't do Intel any favors. The announcement of the security vulnerability led to Intel's worst day on the market in eight months, and an SEC investigation isn't the sort of thing that's likely to inspire confidence in a quick bounce-back. 

We've got a detailed rundown of the Meltdown and Spectre exploits, which despite Intel's reassurances "could be more far-reaching than any previous exploit." You can also see Meltdown in action here.