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Resignations May Slow Backdating Probes

The abrupt resignations last week of U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan, the Justice Department's top law enforcement official in Northern California, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Steskal, the lead prosecutor on the task force investigating stock-option backdating, raise questions about the fate of Bay Area technology companies under investigation. Backdating -- manipulating the timing of stock-option grants to enrich company executives -- became a cause celebre for Ryan, who in July formed a task force to focus on the growing scandal. More than 2,000 public companies have backdating issues, according to ERIK LIE, the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA finance professor whose research zeroed in on the widespread practice of choosing dates on which the stock was trading lower to inflate the value of options for executives.

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