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Explaining Facebook's Epically Complex Stock Lockup

Facebook director Peter Thiel
Facebook director Peter ThielPhotograph by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Facebook director Peter Thiel collected almost $400 million selling most of his remaining stake in the social network over two days last week. The quick sell-off came right after the end of Facebook’s first “lockup” period, which prevented insiders like him from trading shares for 90 days after the company went public.

Lockups are designed to prevent insiders from jumping ship too quickly after a company goes public. While lockups used to be simple—usually lasting 180 days for everyone—they’ve become increasingly complex. Facebook’s IPO may take that to a new level, with five different key dates that dictate which insiders can start selling when. Let us explain.