Initially, my column was only going to cover that a day after former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling was sentenced to 24 plus years, the SEC announced it settled civil fraud charges involving options backdating. The agreement provides for the payment of nearly $2.4 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, a permanent injunction, a permanent officer-and-director bar, and suspension from appearing or practicing before the Commission as an accountant.The SEC had charged the former CFO of Comverse Technology, Inc., David Kreinberg and two other former Comverse executives with engaging over many years in a fraudulent scheme to grant undisclosed in-the-money options to themselves and to others by backdating stock option grants to coincide with historically low closing prices of Comverse common stock. The SEC also alleged that Kreinberg and Comverse's former chairman and CEO created a slush fund of backdated options that the former Chairman and CEO used to recruit and retain key personnel.
The release indicates that in a separate matter filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Kreinberg pled guilty to one criminal count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud, and one criminal count of securities fraud.
In some ways it reminded me of the demise of Enron and WorldCom, in that I also expect to see extensive regulatory action, a slew of lawsuits, criminal convictions, and an attack on auditors that didn’t discover backdated options. It might even catch a law firm and an investment bank. My guess is it will also rile a lot short-changed investors, and put into question the overreliance on stock options in executive and key-person compensation by many companies.
It turns out my column has two parts and I am not exactly sure how much they relate, but I am sure they do in very important ways. The same day as the SEC made its announcement, another release crossed my desk. The Georgia Psychological Association, an affiliate of the American Psychological Association, announced the winners of its Psychologically Healthy Workplace Awards. The award is intended to recognize employers for creating workplaces that foster employee health and well-being while enhancing organizational performance.
The award for “under 100 employees” went to Porter Keadle Moore, an Atlanta accounting firm. The applicants for the award were judged on criteria including employee involvement; health and safety; employee growth and development; work-life balance; and employee recognition.
What a wonderful award! I would like to commend the firm and its managing partner, Phil Moore.
There are probably many more things in common, but in all three situations, conscious decisions were made and there was probably no expectation by the participants that that they would eventually receive public recognition at the same time,or that they would have the direct and indirect short- and long-term consequences that will have.
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