SEC Launches Formal Investigation of Broadcom

Chipmaker Broadcom  said it is the focus of a formal Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation into improperly dated stock option grants.

The company also said in a statement it canceled more than $37 million in options from employees it claimed were responsible for questionable option transactions.

Broadcom said it expects to file an amended 2005 annual report and 2006 first-quarter report with the SEC in January, noting that procedures “lacked adequate controls” and that documentation and record keeping were “insufficient” to verify stock option dates.

Results of Broadcom’s own four-month internal investigation revealed that “numerous” stock options between June 1998 and May 2003 were granted “after the fact.”

While Broadcom said there is no need to restate earnings after 2003 due to improved accounting practices, the vendor has already said it would have to restate more than $750 million in non-cash payments between 2000 through 2005 and the first-quarter of 2006.

Broadcom refused to identify “certain executives and employees” it said were to blame for the incorrect stock option grants, noting the persons had left for reasons unrelated or related to the investigation, according to the statement.

Broadcom former CFO William Ruehle “retired,” in September, a decision the company said at the time was accelerated by an investigation by the company’s audit committee.

The chipmaker said company founders and all current and past members of the board of directors acted appropriately when receiving stock option grants; both Broadcom CEO Scott McGregor and acting CFO Bruce Kiddoo were deemed able to certify financial statements.

In the statement, McGregor said Broadcom has taken appropriate steps to ensure the company keeps control of the stock option grant process.

“Our stockholders deserve nothing less,” McGregor said.

Broadcom is just the latest tech company to admit scrutiny from government regulators over granted stock options.

Last month, Dell announced it was being formally investigated by the SEC, while Apple Friday said that it will delay filing an annual report, and will restate past earnings following an internal probe into the company’s stock-option practices.

Broadcom incidentally is also in the middle of a nasty patent fight with rival Qualcomm that could have significant ramifications for the mobile phone market.

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