Time Warner Settles AOL Merger Related Case for $510M

Time Warner Inc. will pay $510 million and restate its 2001-2002 earnings for the third time as part of a settlement of criminal and civil charges related to its America Online unit, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The settlement will allow Time Warner to again make acquisitions and will enable the company to revisit plans for an initial public offering of its Time Warner Cable unit, the Journal reported.

As part of the settlement, three senior finance executives, including Chief Financial Officer Wayne Pace, face mild administrative sanctions, but will remain in their jobs, according to the company, the Journal reported.

The company has agreed to allow an independent examiner to review its accounting for what the company called "a limited number of transactions" conducted between 1999 and 2002, which could lead to another earnings restatement.

The disastrous merger with America Online has taken Time Warner off track in recent years as it dealt with federal investigations of accounting issues and management turmoil inside the combined company.

In at least one area -- the SEC's investigation of Time Warner's accounting for ad revenue it received from Bertelsmann AG -- the company appears to have backed down from its initial insistence that it had done nothing wrong, the Journal reported.

While the settlement ends the Justice Department's larger investigation, the government kept the door open by appointing the independent examiner who could raise questions later about other transactions.

Indeed, prosecutors still could take action against individuals involved in the fraud. "I would urge you to watch this space," Deputy Attorney General James Comey told the Journal, responding to a question on whether America Online officials could be charged in the accounting-fraud scandal.

A settlement with the SEC is in the works and as part of the proposed deal, Time Warner would pay $300 million to settle the SEC's investigation into AOL accounting, the Journal reported.


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