Securities Law Prof Blog

Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

SEC Charges Broadcom Officers with Backdating

The SEC charged two current and two former top officers of Broadcom Corporation for their alleged participation in a five-year scheme to secretly backdate stock options granted to virtually all Broadcom officers and employees.  The SEC's complaint, filed in federal district court for the Central District of California, alleges that Broadcom's former chief executive officer Henry T. Nicholas, chairman and chief technology officer Henry Samueli, former chief financial officer William J. Ruehle, and general counsel David Dull perpetrated a scheme from 1998 to 2003 to fraudulently backdate stock option grants, failing to record billions of dollars of compensation expenses and falsifying documents to further the fraud. As a result of the scheme, Broadcom restated its financial results in January 2007 and reported more than $2 billion in additional compensation expenses.

According to the SEC's complaint, Nicholas and Samueli served on the two-member option committee that had authority to approve options to employees and all but the most senior officers. The SEC alleges that the option committee approved as many as 88 grants during the relevant period, but for many of the grants the committee neither held meetings nor made decisions on the dates the grants were supposedly approved. Instead, Ruehle allegedly selected most of the grant dates retroactively based on a comparison of Broadcom's historical stock prices, and Nicholas and Samueli allegedly concealed the backdating by signing false committee written consents stating that the grant had been approved "as of" the retroactive date.

In addition, the SEC alleges that Nicholas, Samueli, and Ruehle - not the compensation committee - decided on option grants to Broadcom's senior officers and used hindsight to select the dates for them. Dull allegedly knew about and participated in the backdating scheme and was involved in the preparation, review, and approval of false board and compensation committee meeting documents to conceal two backdated grants in 2001, one of which awarded him options to purchase 300,000 shares. The SEC is alleging that Ruehle and Dull each personally benefited from the backdating scheme by receiving and exercising backdated grants that were in-the-money by more than $100,000 for Ruehle and $1.8 million for Dull.

The SEC is seeking permanent injunctions, civil monetary penalties, and officer-and-director bars against each of the individuals, disgorgement with prejudgment interest against Ruehle and Dull, and reimbursement of bonuses and profits from stock sales from Nicholas and Ruehle pursuant to Section 304 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002.

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