WASHINGTON — BlackBerry maker Research in Motion’s (NASDAQ: RIMM)
top executives settled U.S. regulator claims that they illegally backdated millions of stock options over an eight-year period, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said on Tuesday.
RIM Co-CEOs James Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis as well as the Canadian company’s former chief financial officer, Dennis Kavelman, and former vice president of finance, Angelo Loberto, did not admit to or deny the SEC’s allegations.
However, the four agreed to pay penalties totaling $1.43 million — fines that are much smaller than those Balsillie and Lazaridis agreed to pay in settling with the Ontario Securities Commission.
According to the SEC’s complaint, the executives made false and misleading disclosures about how RIM priced and accounted for options.
From 1998 through 2006, the company and the four senior executives illegally granted options to RIM executives and employees by backdating about 1,400 stock option grants to coincide with low prices for RIM’s stock, the SEC’s complaint alleges.
The executives did not disclose that RIM was not recording material compensation expenses and was overstating its net income or understating its net losses, the SEC alleged.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Kavelman and Loberto took steps to hide the backdating from regulators, RIM’s independent auditor and outside lawyer.
The SEC’s complaint says that after the executives were aware of backdating issues that had come to light at other companies, they attended RIM’s July 2006 annual shareholder meeting where Kavelman misled investors by denying that RIM was backdating options.
Earlier in February, Balsillie and Lazaridis reached a settlement with Canadian regulators and agreed to pay penalties of C$5 million and C$1.5 million, respectively.
The agreement with the Ontario regulator stipulates that the two co-CEOs and Kavelman repay C$38.3 million to the company, as well as C$30 million to cover the costs of a voluntary internal probe into the matter undertaken by RIM earlier.
Shares of RIM fell almost 8 percent to end at $44.64 on Nasdaq. In Toronto (TSE: RIM), the stock closed about 6 percent lower at C$56.54. ($1=$1.26 Canadian)