Risk & Compliance

What’s Wrong with this Pixar?

Ex-CFO Ann Mather may be charged by SEC in stock-option backdating case at the animation studio, now a part of Disney.
Stephen TaubApril 29, 2008

The former chief financial officer of Pixar Animation Studios is likely to be charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission stemming from her role in a stock-option backdating scandal.

Pixar, based in Emeryville, Calif., was acquired by Walt Disney Co. for $7.4 billion in 2006.

Last week Ann Mather, who served as the hit animated movie company’s CFO from 1999 to 2004, was advised by the SEC’s Los Angeles staff that it intends to recommend that the regulator initiate a civil proceeding against her, according to a regulatory filing by Google Inc. Mather has served as a member of the Google board of directors since November 2005.

The Internet search company said in its filing that the SEC staff’s recommendation arises from Mather’s prior employment as CFO of Pixar, and not her service as a director of Google.

Mather’s lawyer, Timothy J. Coleman of Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP, said in a statement to CFO.com, “Ms. Mather acted diligently and responsibly at all times in her position as CFO at Pixar. There is no basis for any legal action against her.”

According to the AP, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said the company still supports Mather’s reelection to its board at its annual meeting next week. “We have the utmost confidence in Ann’s integrity as well as her abilities as a director,” Schmidt said in a statement.

Google Inc. representatives did not immediately respond to CFO.com requests for comment. In a statement, Disney said that its audit committee in March “had concluded its own inquiry into options dating practices at Pixar, finding that backdating had occurred at Pixar prior to its acquisition by Disney but that no one currently associated with Disney had engaged in any intentional or deliberate acts of misconduct.” Disney said it had no reason to expect the SEC staff to recommend an enforcement action against “any individual currently associated with the Walt Disney Company.”

The AP said the SEC had declined to comment, as is its policy with ongoing cases.

Since September 2005, Mather has been a director of Glu Mobile Inc., a publisher of mobile games, and serves as chair of its audit committee. Since April 2004, she has been a director of Central European Media Enterprises Group, a developer and operator of national commercial television channels and stations in Central and Eastern Europe, and serves on its audit committee. She is also a director of Zappos.com, a privately held, online retailer, and Ariat International, Inc, a privately held manufacturer or footwear for equestrian athletes.

Prior to her stint at Pixar, Mather was executive vice president and CFO at Village Roadshow Pictures. From 1993 to 1999, she held various executive positions at The Walt Disney Co., including senior vice president of finance and administration for its Buena Vista International Theatrical Division.

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