Likewise, in a case involving Comverse Technology Inc., the U. Attorney charged the former CEO, the former CFO, and the former General Counsel with violating securities laws.
Under previous regulations, corporations could wait 45 days or, in some cases, over a year to report options, thus providing ample time for backdating.
Other similar practices are being reviewed by government officials as well.
But even if no criminal charges are filed, the SEC still can bring a civil fraud action in federal court.
This sort of case can be brought against the corporation and its officers and directors and can result in the disgorgement of profits, stiff monetary penalties, and prohibitions against officers and directors serving any public company in those capacities in the future.
Options were also backdated for new employees to dates prior to the date employment actually commenced.
In addition, hundreds of thousands of backdated options were issued to fictitious employees and parked in a slush fund to be awarded at the CEO’s discretion.
Two indictments have been issued and multiple guilty pleas have been entered in the most egregious cases. To a public corporation, the potential consequences of engaging in options backdating are manifold and can range from none whatsoever to having founders and CEOs going to prison. For example, in the case involving Brocade Communications, the SEC charged the former CEO and the former Vice President of Human Resources with criminally violating the securities laws.
In addition to the governmental investigations, more than 200 companies have completed, or are conducting, internal investigations — either because they want the comfort of knowing that they have not engaged in options backdating or they have an inkling that they did and want to be proactive in addressing the problem. In a follow-up study to his earlier work, Professor Lie estimated that 29 percent of 7,774 companies he surveyed backdated option grants to executives between 19. The facts of that case as set forth in the indictment were egregious.
And in addition to officer and director bars imposed by government authorities, internal investigations have led to numerous officer resignations from at least 25 companies including Quest Software, KB Homes, United Health Group, Inc., Mc Afee, Inc., CNET Networks, Inc., and Monster Worldwide.
Even Apple Computer CEO Steve Jobs was implicated by an internal investigation into backdating, although he apparently did not receive, or otherwise benefit from, the backdated grants.
Class actions ostensibly are brought on behalf of the shareholders of the company who have been impacted by the option grants.