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US lawmakers call for probe into Intel stock sale before Meltdown disclosure

Two US senators have requested that federal regulators open an investigation into the sale of Intel stock by CEO Brian Krzanich, which was held before the company disclosed the Meltdown and Spectre security flaws. The sale earned Krzanich $25 million.

In a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Justice Department, Jack Reed (D – Rhode Island) and John Kennedy (R – Louisiana) said that they were ‘troubled’ by the sales.

The move, which was allegedly held while Intel knew about the vulnerabilities, left Krzanich with just 250,000 shares – the bare minimum required by Intel under the terms of his employment.

Intel has said that the sales were made as part of an automated trading programme. Previously, a spokesperson said that they were pre-planned and unrelated to the discovery of the Spectre and Meltdown flaws – although Google shared news about them in June, and the sale was only arranged in October.

Intel has said that it will cooperate with any investigation.

Despite the concerns, the value of Intel’s stock remained largely unchanged after the vulnerability disclosure. They were sold for between $44.05 and $44.56 through the trading programme, and closed at $43.62 yesterday.

Meltdown and Spectre are flaws in CPUs from Intel, AMD, ARM and other vendors produced over at least the last 10 years. They exploit vulnerabilities in speculative execution to recover sensitive information from the kernel memory.

Initial reports indicated that the fix for these issues could slow PCs by as much as a third, although Intel has now stated that overall impact ‘will depend on the specific workload, platform configuration and mitigation technique’. The company’s own benchmarks show a slowdown of between two and 14 per cent (not really what we would call ‘minimal’), while Microsoft has said that users with a PC dating from 2015 or earlier will experience a performance hit.

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