Former Brocade CEO: Hello, BofA? Yes, I’d Like to Stop Payment on a $15 Million Check.

Published on August 19, 2009
by John Paczkowski

and-justice-for-allAnother first for former Brocade Communications Systems (BRCD) CEO Greg Reyes. He was the first Silicon Valley CEO to be indicted on federal charges in the options backdating scandal of a few years ago and the first to be found guilty. And on Tuesday, he became the first to have his conviction overturned.

Citing misconduct by prosecutors, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ordered a new trial for Reyes, who had been convicted of 10 charges of conspiracy, fraud, making false regulator filings and falsifying records for backdating hundreds of employee stock options.

A favorable turn of luck for Reyes, who had been sentenced to 21 months in prison and ordered to pay a $15 million fine for misdeeds that, according to that three-judge panel, had been grossly exaggerated and perhaps even fabricated.

“Deliberate false statements by those privileged to represent the United States harm the trial process and the integrity of our prosecutorial system,” Judge Mary Schroeder wrote in the 3-0 ruling. “We do not lightly tolerate a prosecutor asserting as a fact to the jury something known to be untrue or, at the very least, that the prosecution had very strong reason to doubt.”

The panel stopped short of throwing the case out entirely, noting that “there was no question that Reyes signed off on stock-option grants that were priced retrospectively and that the backdating allowed Brocade to understate its compensation expenses.” So the United States attorney could opt to retry the case, though that seems a bleak option at this point given the tenor of the ruling.

“This is the highest profile [backdating] case they had that went to trial, so I’d expect they will try it again, if for no other reason than for reputational purposes,” Wayne State University law professor Peter Henning told the Mercury News. “But talk about a case that’s stale.”

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