Executives of troubled MicroStrategy, the Virginia-based software development company, have been hit with what has been billed as the largest penalties ever inflicted by the SEC in a non-insider trading case. Company Chairman, Michael Saylor, and two other executives will pay $350,000 each, and give up a total of $10 million in what the SEC is calling "ill-gotten gains," a result of an extensive investigation by the federal agency.
Still to be determined is the role played by the company's accountants, PricewaterhouseCoopers. The firm is embroiled in a class action suit brought by MicroStrategy's shareholders. The SEC is also investigating the Big 5 firm's role.
The officers of MicroStrategy are accused of shifting the timing of reporting income in an effort to present the company in a favorable light on quarterly financial statements. Situations in which contracts were signed after the end of a reporting period, but back-dated to be included in the prior quarter's financial statements are sited. In addition, income that should have been recognized over the duration of contracts was reported at the time contracts were executed.
The result of this income shuffling was an estimated profit of more than $70 million to company officers who sold company stock while the share price was artificially inflated. MicroStrategy stock is now selling for slightly over $15 per share as compared to a previous high of $333 per share.