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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) took its latest whack at a lawyer in the ongoing stock-options backdating probes last week, filing a civil suit against Lisa Berry, the former general counsel of two Silicon Valley companies with massive options problems. The complaint alleges that Berry personally backdated options grants at KLA-Tencor Corp. from 1997 to 1999, and continued the practice when she left KLA to become general counsel at Juniper Networks Inc. While backdating has turned out to be a problem at dozens of tech companies, the Berry case is the first to allege a cross-pollination of companies with fraudulent practices. “A lot of people have asked about how so many companies in the Valley had these problems,” said Jeremy Pendrey, one of the SEC lawyers who investigated the Berry case. “I’m not saying this is the answer, but this is an executive who went from one company to another.” KLA settled SEC backdating allegations last month, and the commission announced last week that Juniper � which filed restated financials that wiped out almost $900 million in revenue � had also settled. The SEC decided earlier this summer to consider Berry’s behavior at both companies as a single pattern of conduct, in an attempt to bring the KLA allegations under the five-year statute of limitations on securities fraud. While there’s no time limit for seeking nonmonetary relief (such as a bar on being an officer at a public company), monetary relief falls within the five-year limit. By linking the KLA behavior to misconduct at Juniper, the SEC can argue that, because Berry’s wrongdoing at KLA is part of the same malfeasance, she should face monetary penalties for both. “Certainly, it’s something we will seek,” Pendrey said. At KLA, the complaint alleges, Berry “directed the process for selecting the exercise price by using historical information regarding low KLA stock prices of the preceding weeks. One or more members of the stock option committee then executed the grant paperwork prepared at Berry’s direction, bearing false grant dates that had been selected using hindsight.” In a prepared statement, Berry’s lawyer, Melinda Haag of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, said she didn’t profit from backdated options. “Lisa has no responsibility for actions at either company, had no idea that either company violated options accounting, and did not personally benefit from misdated option grants,” Haag said

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