UPDATE 1-Big Lots says SEC didn't contact it on CEO's stock sale

Wed Dec 5, 2012 3:26pm GMT

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Dec 5 (Reuters) - Big Lots Inc said on Wednesday that U.S. securities regulators had not contacted the close-out retailer and its chief executive officer about his $10 million stock sale ahead of negative news on the company.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating the sale. The trades were highlighted last week in a front-page Journal story that said CEO Steven Fishman had sold $10 million of his stock a month before Big Lots reported a surprise quarterly loss that sent its shares down nearly 25 percent in a day. ()

"We have not received anything from the SEC," Andy Regrut, director of investor relations for Big Lots, told Reuters.

Big Lots General Counsel Charles Haubiel said the SEC had not contacted Fishman. The CEO did not learn about the investigation until a Journal reporter called Haubiel on Tuesday, after the company had already announced Fishman's plan to retire next year, the general counsel told Reuters.

The company said Tuesday that Fishman would retire for personal reasons, but would remain in the top role until a replacement is found.

The SEC allows company executives to trade their own stock by using a preset plan known as "10b5-1," even when they have access to private information.

Haubiel said Fishman's departure was unrelated to the investigation.

The company told the Journal that the stock sale was made "at a time when the company's trading window was open."

However, the company told the Journal that Fishman's March trade - the subject of the SEC probe - was not made using the 10b5-1 plan.

Big Lots shares were down 3.4 percent at $30.21 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

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