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Facebook's stock spooked by insider selling concerns

The company's stock sinks about 4 percent after employees are allowed to sell their pre-IPO shares.


No one knows how many of Facebook's rank-and-file employees decided to sell some of their pre-IPO holdings today -- the first time they've been allowed to since the company went public back in May at $38 a share.

But plenty of people did sell -- either employees or investors fearful that a rush of new shares on the market would push down the stock. Or, more likely, a combination of both. The stock, which traded nearly twice the volume of a typical day, ended down 3.37 percent at $21.12. (Note, however, that this is far above the $18 or so it traded at early last month.)

All told, around 229 million shares were eligible to hit the market today, the first day U.S. stock markets were open this week due to Hurricane Sandy. These are shares that Facebook issued to employees in the form of restricted stock units (RSUs). Unlike stock options, this is stock that vests over time. So while an option can become worthless as a stock falls -- something that anyone who lived through the dot-com bust knows about -- restricted stock is always worth something.

The upshot: Facebook employees are all sitting on a potential pile of cash, even if those piles are a lot smaller than they had hoped -- which is why some doubtless decided to dump some stock. More worrisome for other investors, however, is November 14. That's the day when 804 million fresh shares become available to hit the market.

Shares of Facebook over the past month. Yahoo Finance