Qwest Communications International Inc.'s former finance chief, Robin Szeliga, pleaded guilty to insider trading last week.
As part of her plea, she will cooperate with the Securities and Exchange Commission's investigation of other company executives involved in accounting fraud at the No. 4 local telephone company in the country. Last year, Qwest agreed to pay $250 million to settle SEC fraud allegations, though none of those funds were distributed to individuals.
Szeliga admitted to selling 10,000 shares of Qwest stock in 2001, for a net profit of $125,000, based on nonpublic information. She could play a huge role in the government's efforts to tie top executives to an accounting scandal at the company. The SEC has said that the fraud occurred between April 1999 and March 2002, allowing as much as $3 billion in revenue to be improperly reported as recurring, driving up the company's stock price as executives made millions selling off their own shares.
Szeliga is the sixth former executive to be criminally charged in the SEC's investigation. Two executives were acquitted of all charges in April 2004 and two more pleaded guilty to a felony and a misdemeanor, respectively. Former Qwest executive Marc Weisberg was indicted in February and denied wrongdoing.
Former chief executive Joseph Nacchio has not faced criminal charges, though the SEC sued him in March and alleged that he engaged in fraud with 11 other former Qwest officials.
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