Dec 4 (Reuters) - The U.S. securities regulator is investigating a $10 million stock sale in March by Steven Fishman, chief executive of close-out retailer Big Lots Inc , who announced his retirement on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a person familiar with the inquiry.
The U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) allows company executives to trade their own stock by using a preset trading plan called "10b5-1" even when they have access to private information.
Big Lots told the Journal that Fishman's departure is unrelated to the probe and 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.
Separately, the company said on Tuesday Fishman will retire in 2013 for personal reasons, but will stay in the top role until a replacement is found.
Big Lots stocks products that have been overproduced, discontinued, or rejected by other retailers. It has been expanding its consumables, home and furniture segments.
The trades were highlighted in a Journal article published last week indicating that Fishman sold $10 million of his stock, a month before Big Lots posted a surprise quarterly loss that sent its stock down nearly 25 percent in a day. ()
Big Lots and the SEC could not be reached for comment by Reuters outside of regular business hours.