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Stock Option Task Force Formed

Northern California's top federal prosecutor said Thursday that he has formed a task force to investigate whether companies in Silicon Valley committed fraud by improperly issuing employee stock options. The statement by U.S. Atty. Kevin Ryan in San Francisco came after disclosures from more than 65 companies that they were under investigation for retroactively changing the date stock options were granted. University of Iowa Professor ERIK LIE said his latest research, examining 8,000 companies, suggested that "at least 1,000 ... at some point manipulated or backdated their option grants." He spoke on a conference call briefing held by Institutional Shareholder Services, which provides proxy voting and other corporate governance services for clients. Lie is the author or co-author of several key academic studies that helped expose questionable options timing now at the center of a fast-spreading probe by federal authorities. A similar story was written by the REUTERS news service, appearing on the websites of the WASHINGTON POST, NEW YORK TIMES, and MSN MONEY.

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