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8 First Niagara insiders buy up 88,000 shares

Some top insiders at First Niagara Financial Group have bought up stock in the company this month, at a time when the bank’s share price has continued to lag.

The eight buyers consist of Gary M. Crosby, the Buffalo-based bank’s CEO and a member of its board of directors, as well as four other directors and three officers. Combined, the eight insiders bought more than 88,000 shares, with a market value of about $690,000.

The purchases started appearing two weeks ago, just after First Niagara revealed Nov. 10 that it had increased the amount of an accounting write-down on the value of its prior deals to $1.1 billion from $800 million. In late October, First Niagara announced the initial write-down and said it may have to pay up to $45 million in restitution to customers for an unrelated issue.

First Niagara’s stock closed at $7.51 per share on Nasdaq on Nov. 11; the stock closed at $8.33 on Tuesday. The bank’s 52-week range consists of a low of $7 per share and a high of $11.25.

First Niagara declined to comment on the stock purchases since they were personal transactions made by the individuals.

But the insiders’ purchases could be viewed as their buying stock at a bargain price, as well as an attempt to give other investors confidence to follow suit. First Niagara’s sluggish stock price is a long-standing source of frustration to investors. The bank’s stock was trading above $11 per share about a year ago but has declined since then, falling below $8 in late October before climbing above $8 this month.

The insider purchases recorded this month are: Nathaniel D. Woodson, chairman of the board, 25,000 shares, market value of $201,500; Carlton L. Highsmith, director, 15,000 shares, $112,950; Crosby, 10,000 shares, $77,600; Joseph V. Saffire, executive vice president of commercial financial services, 10,000 shares, $77,700; Gregory W. Norwood, chief financial officer, 10,000 shares, $76,000; Austin A. Adams, director, 10,000 shares, $81,600; Mark R. Rendulic, executive vice president, retail banking, 6,514 shares, $50,744; and Peter B. Robinson, director, 1,489 shares, $12,024.