Monday, January 22, 2007

Corporate Crimes and Who Pays the Piper?

Two versions of corporate malfeasance made the business news today. Both involved planning, taking a little at a time that added up over a longer period. One case centers around the widespread practice of backdating stock options, also known as cheating and a violation of SEC rules when companies don’t follow their stated policies.

The ex-CEO of computer game maker, Take Two Interactive Software has been under investigation for his role in directing the dates for his stock options to maximize his pay package. His malfeasance occurred between 1997 and 2003. It is unclear what charges might be brought against Ryan Brant for directing the back dating. What is certain is the company will restate its earnings between 1997 and 2006.

The second case involves a Coca Cola employee also wanting to optimize her income while sending a message to her employer about her value. A co-defendant said the perp’s motivation was “she didn’t feel like she was being treated right at her job”. As a result she copied confidential documents bit by bit with the intent to sell them to rival Pepsi for $1.5 million. A FBI investigation resulted in charges and the trial is expected to last another week or two.

Both people broke societies and their company’s regulations. Who do you think will spend more time in jail for their desire to bilk their own company over time? My money is on the Coke employee. I don’t think many of the 2,000 CEOs under suspicion for backdating will spend a day in jail…

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