In the latest twist in the long-running options backdating saga, and in what appears to be a significant milestone in the options backdating-related gatekeeper claims, on June 15, 2009, Vitesse Semiconductor announced (here) that it had reached a settlement with its former auditor, KPMG LLP, in connection with the option backdating related allegations. In the settlement KPMG agreed to pay $22.5 million and to forgive past indebtedness.


As discussed at greater length here, in June 2007,Vitesse sued KPMG in Los Angeles County Superior Court alleging that KPMG had been negligent in auditing the company’s stock option grants and financial statements during the years 1994 to 2000. Vitesse later amended the complaint to include the years 2001 to 2004.


Vitesse itself had been the subject of an options backdating-related securities class action lawsuit in the Central District of California, as described here. Vitesse settled that lawsuit for a payment $10.2 million in cash, $8.75 million of which came from the company’s D&O insurance carrier, and the balance in payments from individual defendants. The settlement also included the transfer of shares of Vitesse stock from Vitesse and from the individual defendants.


The plaintiffs in the options backdating securities lawsuit had also sued KPMG and as reflected here, on June 16, 2008, the parties to the securities lawsuit filed a stipulation of settlement in which KPMG agreed to contribute $7.750 million toward the class settlement.


KPMG’s recent $22.5 million settlement of Vitesse’s own lawsuit is in addition to KPMG’s separate $7.750 million contribution to the settlement of the securities class action lawsuit.


As I recently noted (here), the options backdating securities class action lawsuits themselves appear to be winding down, but until word circulated of KPMG’s settlement with Vitesse, I had not heard of the resolution of any cases that companies themselves had filed against their outside professional advisors.


Even if there were prior outside gatekeeper settlements that I missed, the KPMG settlement with Vitesse has to be the most significant settlement between an outside gatekeeper and a company with respect to the options backdating scandal. It will be interesting to see whether the final stage of the options backdating saga includes further significant gatekeeper claim resolutions. Given the magnitude of the KPMG settlement, it would certainly seem that there could be other significant settlements and perhaps even the assertion of additional claims.


I would be very interested to know if readers are aware of the resolution of any other cases that companies have filed against their outside professionals in connection with the options backdating scandal.


As noted here, KPMG is also the subject of a trustee’s claim in connection with the New Century Financial Corp. bankruptcy proceeding. KPMG also remains a defendant in the New Century subprime-related securities class action lawsuit, after its motion to dismiss in that case was denied, as discussed here.


How Will GM Sell Cars Now?: General Motors certainly faces a daunting challenge trying to sell cars as a bankrupt company. I have posted a video link below of an irreverent but particularly funny take on what a bankrupt GM’s ads might look like. The spoof ad does a great job ripping conventional car ad clichés, which clearly won’t work now (if they ever did).

Hat tip to the Planet Money blog for the link to the video. Warning, the ad contains language some might consider offensive.