Risk & Compliance

Options Probes Moving ”Quickly”: Cox

SEC chairman reportedly insists that many will be resolved within weeks.
Stephen TaubApril 25, 2007

Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Christopher Cox said the regulator will probably wrap up many of its stock-option backdating cases during the next few weeks, according to Reuters.

“We are working on procedures to move many of the cases very quickly,” he told the wire service. Reuters added that Cox — in an interview following a news conference on cooperation between U.S. and European securities regulators — did not indicate whether the cases would be resolved through settlements, lawsuits, or some combination.

“A handful of issues were novel, but upon their resolution” the process will accelerate, Cox also told the wire service.

The commission is reportedly looking into the options practices at about 130 companies; many are also under investigation by the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service.

On Tuesday, for example, former Apple chief financial officer Fred Anderson agreed to pay more than $3.6 million to settle SEC charges stemming from his role in the company’s options backdating scandal. The commission also filed charges against former general counsel Nancy Heinen, alleging that she participated in fraudulent backdating and caused the company to underreport expenses by nearly $40 million.

A day later, a statement by Anderson raised questions about Apple’s claim that chief executive officer Steve Jobs did not ”appreciate the accounting implications” of options backdating.

“Our intention is to resolve the issue of backdating in general as permanently as possible,” Cox told Reuters. “We’d like to put it behind us. Undoubtedly there will be hard-core violators that will persist, but we have every reason to believe that what went on in such broad fashion in the late 1990s need not occur ever again.”