Towers Watson & Co Chief Executive John Haley sold shares in the human resources consultancy for a profit of about $9.7 million while the company was discussing a merger with Willis Group Holdings, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The announcement of the $18 billion deal on June 30 wiped out more than $800 million from Towers Watson’s market value.

Haley exercised 106,933 stock options and sold the underlying shares, according to a regulatory filing in March. (

The trades took place early in the merger talks and were cleared by Towers Watson’s legal team, the Journal reported on Wednesday, citing a person familiar with the situation. (

Haley has said he plans to head the combined company.

Towers Watson did not immediately respond to requests for comment outside regular U.S. business hours.

The company’s shares closed at $120.16 on Wednesday, down nearly 13 percent from June 29, representing a loss of about $1.2 billion in its market value. (Reporting by Richa Naidu in Bengaluru.)