SEC to investigate on stock option grants

7 September 2006

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is to investigate more than 100 companies amid concerns over the way that stock option grants are reported, it has been announced.

The SEC's chairman Christopher Cox told the Senate Banking Committee yesterday that enforcement actions against some companies would be likely in the future, adding that the firms concerned were located throughout the US, spanning various industry sectors.

It is alleged that some companies have been backdating stock options while failing to report this to investors – an act regarded as manipulation of stock option pricing.

The announcement comes after the US Justice Department said that investigating such fraudulent activities was the top priority for the government's corporate fraud task force.

"[Fraudulent reporting of stock option grants] can only be seen as a brazen abuse of corporate power to artificially inflate the salaries of corporate wrongdoers at the expense of shareholders," said Paul McNulty, the deputy attorney general.

The FBI is also set to open investigations into around 45 companies, on top of the 100 that are to receive the attentions of the SEC.

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