Ex-Mercury Lawyer Skaer Settles With SEC, Judge Says

Former Mercury Interactive LLC General Counsel Susan Skaer settled a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit alleging she participated in improper backdating of company stock options.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco said today in an order that he was told of the settlement and postponed Skaer’s trial set for March 11 “to allow time for the commission to approve the settlement.” Details of the accord weren’t disclosed in the filing.

The SEC sued Skaer and other executives at Hewlett-Packard Co.’s Mercury Interactive unit in 2007 alleging they participated in a scheme to backdate employee stock options without accounting for the resulting compensation expenses. Alsup on Feb. 13 denied Skaer’s request to dismiss the claims against her. Skaer is the only remaining defendant in the case.

Michael Torpey, Skaer’s lawyer, didn’t immediately respond to e-mail seeking comment on the agreement. Alvin Williams, an SEC attorney, declined to comment on it.

Amnon Landan, former chief executive officer of Mercury Interactive, agreed to pay $4.5 million, including a $1 million fine, to settle claims SEC claims against him in the backdating case, according to a filing in the case last week.

The SEC has said more than 40 stock option grants at Mercury Interactive were backdated from 1997 to 2002, and $258 million in compensation expenses weren’t reported to investors as a result, according to court documents. Hewlett-Packard acquired Mercury Interactive in 2006.

The case is Securities and Exchange Commision v. Mercury Interactive LLC, 07-02822, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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