Yet another stock options backdating case blew up Dec. 15, 2009, when a federal judge in California dismissed criminal and civil securities fraud charges against former Broadcom Corp. officers because of prosecutorial misconduct.

Federal District Judge Cormac Carney acquitted Broadcom’s former chief financial officer, William Ruehle, and dismissed charges against Henry T. Nicholas III, the company’s co-founder. He previously had thrown out co-founder Henry Samueli’s guilty plea of lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Carney set a Feb. 2 hearing on drug charges against Nicholas, saying the government would have to convince him not to throw out those charges, too.

Former Broadcom General Counsel David Dull was a key player in the unraveling of the government’s case. A federal prosecutor allegedly committed misconduct when talking to attorneys for Dull, who testified for the defense under a grant of immunity from Carney. Dull’s lawyers alleged the prosecutor tried to influence his testimony, threatening him with perjury charges.

Carney also dismissed a related SEC civil suit against Dull, Ruehle, Nicholas and Samueli.

On Dec. 29, 2009, Broadcom said it would pay more than $160 million in cash to settle a class action investor lawsuit related to the backdating but did not admit wrongdoing.