May 12, 2007 in Business

Business in brief: Options-dating charges pending

The Spokesman-Review
 

More company executives may face criminal charges as a result of ongoing federal investigations into stock-option backdating, Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Christopher Cox said Friday.

“We have a substantial number of investigations under way (including) cases that are maturing to the point of potential criminal action,” Cox told reporters at a securities conference.

The goal of the probe is to all but eliminate the practice of improper stock-options backdating, Cox said. “Every company is on notice that it won’t be tolerated,” he said.

The government is investigating scores of public companies to determine whether stock option awards were backdated improperly.

At least seven executives at companies that included Apple Inc. and video game publisher Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. have been charged, and two have entered guilty pleas.

Beijing

Pomp surrounds new trade deal

It’s a sign of the times when China’s plans to buy a few billion dollars worth of U.S. goods gets announced with the fanfare normally reserved for much larger deals.

The point was to show that China knows it must make strides to equalize trade between the two nations, days before its negotiators travel to Washington to haggle with U.S. officials over trade.

But whatever good may have come from the 3-hour signing ceremony in California on Wednesday – when deals were announced for China to buy $4.3 billion of U.S. technology – probably evaporated on Friday, after China said it posted a $16.88 billion trade surplus in April, a good chunk of it likely from the U.S.

Washington

Ethanol boost won’t hurt prices

An anticipated 58 percent jump in corn-based ethanol production next year will not boost food prices enough to harm consumers, the Agriculture Department’s chief economist said Friday.

The economist, Keith Collins, projected that 118 U.S. ethanol plants will produce 9.3 billion gallons of ethanol for the crop year ending August 2008, up from the 5.9 billion gallons expected for the current crop year.

“This is just amazing, that’s a huge increase,” Collins said at a briefing with reporters.

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