Human Capital & Careers

Options Troubles Blossom for Some Companies

Further announcements from Semtech, Monster Worldwide, Michaels Stores, others.
Stephen TaubJune 15, 2006

In an ever-widening scandal, a number of companies that have announced internal investigations or regulatory reviews of their options-grant practices now face additional burdens.

• Semtech, which previously reported an internal review of its stock-option practices in light of an informal inquiry by the Securities and Exchange Commission, disclosed that it will delay the filing of its April 30 quarterly results. In a press release, the semiconductor maker added that it continues to cooperate fully with the SEC inquiry and will complete its filing “as soon as practicable after completion of its internal review.”

• Monster Worldwide, which operates the Monster.com job-search website, announced that it has been directed by the SEC to preserve all relevant information in anticipation of a document request regarding stock-option grants. The company added that it intends to cooperate fully. Previously, Monster had announced that it received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York requesting information regarding its options grants and that a committee of independent directors is reviewing all stock options issued by the company.

• Michaels Stores disclosed in a regulatory filing that it will reclassify certain unrecorded non-cash compensation costs of about $60 million for the period from 1990 to 2001. The retailer added that since its audit committee continues to look into the company’s historical stock-option practices, “additional information may become available which could cause the current estimate of potential unrecorded compensation to change materially.” The company previously announced that it would delay the filing of its April 2006 quarterly results.

• Quest Software, which earlier announced an SEC inquiry regarding its stock-option practices, disclosed in a regulatory filing that a derivative lawsuit has been filed against several of its directors and officers “as a result of alleged breaches of their fiduciary duties in connection with Quest’s option-granting processes.”

• Asyst Technologies, which provides hardware and software for semiconductor and flat-panel-display manufacturers, announced that it will delay filing its annual report for its March 31, 2006 fiscal year while a special committee of independent directors looks into past stock-option grants and practices. Asyst added that it received a letter from the SEC requesting documents relating to stock options granted from January 1, 1997, to the present; the company is cooperating.

• The California Public Employees Retirement System announced that it has withdrawn a letter of inquiry to Nvidia concerning stock-option backdating. Last week, the pension giant asked 25 companies, including Nvidia, to independently investigate media reports of employee stock-option backdating and disclose all findings publicly, and to disclose any new company policies for determining option-grant dates. CalPERS announced that it has been informed by Nvidia representatives that they are “unaware of any regulatory or other investigations of stock option backdating at the company.”