Cephalon Inc. has agreed to pay $17 million to settle a spate of class-action shareholder suits filed in 1996 that said top corporate officers hid the truth about the prospects of an experimental drug to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Senior U.S. District Judge Clifford Scott Green yesterday granted preliminary approval of the settlement, clearing the way for notices of it to be published in the Wall Street Journal and mailed to potential class members.

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