Broadcom yesterday confirmed the largest restatement of financial results related to stock options backdating so far, totalling an astonishing $2.24 billion.
The figure is triple the amount Broadcom originally expected to restate, and put it well ahead of the former leader, United Health Group, which expects to take up to a $1.7 billion charge. Juniper Networks rounds out the top three at $900 million.
The manufacturer of chips for communications devices said the non-cash charges to its financial statements have had no material impact on its current strong financial and cash position. The company restated earnings for 1998 through the first quarter of 2006.
Broadcom found options for 232.9 million shares of company stock that had been backdated. The majority of those shares were handed out to employees other than executive officers, while 9.7 million of those shares, or 4.2 per cent went to executive officers.
"None of the employees found to have been actively responsible for the historical problems resulting in the restatement are still with the company," Broadcom said in a statement, adding that it improved its award practice in the middle of 2003.
The charge announced on Tuesday was far higher than original estimates. In July, Broadcom said it expected to take $750 million in charges related to irregular stock-option grants. In September, the company doubled the size of the estimate to $1.5 billion.
Broadcom said the size of the total charge increased because it expanded the dates involved in the probe and finalised the accounting methods to use in some special cases.
The now-notorious practice of backdating stock options was made almost impossible to legally execute by Sarbanes-Oxley because it understates taxes and is unfair to shareholders.
Stock options give the holder a right to buy a set number of shares directly from the company at the price the company's shares trade on the stock market the day the option is issued. Backdating involves pegging stock options to dates when the shares were lower than the day they are actually handed out, normally to boost the recipients' award.
Stock options were designed as a way for companies to attract and retain employees, and for workers to share in the success of the company.
So far, stock options probes, carried out either by companies themselves or by the US Securities and Exchange Commission, have affected around 190 companies, including Apple, and led to the firing or resignation of top executives at some companies, including memory chip developer Rambus and security software vendor McAfee. Other companies have faced shareholder lawsuits over the issue.