Backdating option

As in other enforcement areas, the SEC has a penchant for pursuing through civil actions matters that involve blatant and intentional misconduct.Of course, the imposition of an officer and director bar against those who are intimately involved with the backdating process can result in a corporation losing its founder or other key management personnel.Plaintiffs’ lawyers have seized upon this issue as yet another opportunity to bring cases against corporations and their officers and directors.

Although backdating had not yet been recognized as a problem, the provisions of Sarbanes-Oxley requiring that insiders report the acquisition of securities, including options, within two days of receipt greatly hindered the ability of corporations to backdate options.

Not surprisingly, the defendants themselves earned millions of dollars from backdated options.

Another troublesome outcome for a corporation is that the SEC will bring civil fraud charges stemming from options backdating in all cases where criminal charges have been filed.

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.

In that case, corporate officers inserted backdated option grant dates into board of directors’ unanimous written consents that were transmitted to the compensation committee.

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Class actions ostensibly are brought on behalf of the shareholders of the company who have been impacted by the option grants.

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