Looking to avoid the publicity of a trial, the country's largest trash hauler will pay $26.8 million to cover most of the costs of a settlement between former executives and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The settlement by Waste Management Inc. was approved in U.S. District Court in Chicago. Originally filed in 2002, the SEC suit had accused Waste Management's founder and former chair, Dean Buntrock, and three other former executives of failing to report expenses, postponing costs and filing false financial statements, in order to meet earnings targets between 1992 and 1997.

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