In announcing criminal and civil complaints against the former CEO and HR manager of Brocade Communications Systems on Thursday, the San Francisco U.S. Attorney and Securities and Exchange Commission painted the stock option backdating issue in tones of black and white.

“In many cases it makes a hash of a company’s financial statements,” said SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, in from Washington to trumpet the first charges in a probe that’s hit about 80 companies, many in Silicon Valley. “It’s poisonous.”

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