The settlements are likely to set a pattern for future cases.
The SEC is reported to have undertaken at least 140 backdating-related investigations.
When the stock option abuses surfaced, Brocade’s audit committee conducted a thorough investigation, resulting in the resignation of Reyes and the restatement of the company’s previously-reported income, the complaint said.
Last July, the Commission charged Reyes, former CFO Antonio Canova, and former vice president of human resources Stephanie Jensen, with fraud and other securities law violations.
In one example, according to the lawsuit, a finance department employee at Mercury e-mailed another regarding an employee's stock option grant: "I betcha that Sharlene (Abrams, the chief financial officer) will overrule these types of things ... In January 2002, three board members faxed their approval for an option grant to Skaer.
But Skaer or an assistant whited out the date the fax was sent, changing it to Nov. A spokeswoman for HP, as well as attorneys for the executives, declined to comment.
In the Brocade case, falsification of reported income from 1999 through 2004 was alleged.
The SEC said that Reyes routinely provided extra compensation to employees by granting valuable in-the-money stock options for which a financial statement expense was required.
The complaint alleged that from 1999 through 2005, Abrams, Skaer, and others participated in fraudulent structuring of loans for stock-option exercises by overseas employees, concealing the accounting consequences of those transactions and causing the company to fail to report about million in required compensation expenses, which “materially overstated” the company’s reported pre-tax earnings during this period.It accused Skaer or others at her direction of preparing false documentation for the grants, including false written consents and meeting minutes.The complaint alleged that Landan, Abrams, Smith, and Skaer each personally benefited from in-the-money backdated stock options, in the aggregate collecting millions of dollars through the fraudulent scheme.On top of those personal and financial penalties, shareholder lawsuits are also being filed.In Mercury's case, two stockholders filed suit against former executives Sharlene Abrams, Kenneth Klein, Susan Skaer and Douglas Smith, alleging that over a span of six years -- from 1996 to 2002 -- executives at the company profited greatly by arranging the date of more than 50 stock-option grants to coincide with low stock prices. " In another case, the lawsuit said that Abrams and Skaer, the company's former general counsel, drew up a fake letter hiring Smith on May 23, 2000, when in fact he was still negotiating the terms of his employment at the time.