Qwest Nearing $250M Settlement with SEC

Qwest Communications International and federal regulators have reportedly agreed to a $250 million settlement of a two-year investigation into the alleged financial misdeeds of former Qwest executives.

The agreement has not been finalized, and neither the Securities and Exchange Commission nor Qwest would comment on the matter, according to the Business-Standard, an Indian business daily.

Union leaders at the Communications Workers of America told the newspaper that Qwest informed them about the pending agreement. People familiar with the case said Qwest would most likely agree to pay the $250 million without admitting or denying guilt.

The SEC investigation began two years ago after allegations surfaced that Qwest's former management overstated revenue by improperly booking network capacity deals. The telecommunications company restated its financial results for 2000 and 2001 about a year ago, reducing revenues by $2.5 billion.

To date, about a dozen former Qwest executives either have settled allegations or have been targeted in civil or criminal cases.

The settlement must be approved by the five-member SEC, which could announce the deal this month.

The Associated Press quoted analysts as saying an SEC settlement could help clear the way for the sale of the company, which operates in 14 Western and Midwestern states. They believe Qwest's relatively small size and lack of a wireless division might make it an attractive acquisition because of its regional customer base.

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