News & Events

UI Professor Backdating Findings Spur Investigations

The steady drumbeat of U.S. companies caught up in a widening stock options backdating scandal continued this week as four companies said they were being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission or federal prosecutors. Mercury Interactive, a California-based business software company, said three of its directors had offered to step aside after being told by the SEC it was considering a civil enforcement action against them for violations of federal securities laws. About 60 companies have said they are subject to government probes. Many are also conducting internal reviews. Mercury's stock options practices have been under SEC review since 2004, around the time when a wider SEC probe into the issue began. The inquiry widened three months ago after it emerged that a finance professor at the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA alerted the SEC to a suspicious pattern at dozens of companies showing a sharp rise in the share price after the backdating of an option. A version of the story also ran on the Website of MSNBC.

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