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The Option to Trust

Earlier this week, federal authorities charged three ex-officers of Comverse Technology with criminal fraud. The government charged former company CEO Kobi Alexander, CFO David Kreinberg, and senior general counsel William Sorin, with manipulating corporate stock options by altering grant dates and issuing grants to themselves under false names.

Is this just another story about people you've never heard of, from a company you've probably never heard of, making headlines with their greed? No, unfortunately. It's the latest disclosure from an expanding list of companies alleged to have participated in the newest corporate backdating stock options. The Securities and Exchange Commission has more than eighty ongoing backdating probes involving dozens of well-known companies, including Apple Computer, Cablevision, Monster.com, UnitedHealth Group, and Home Depot.

Chalk up another hit to employee/manager trust. Most workers don't receive stock options, so most don't fully understand the nature of the crime. But all employees read the paper or watch the news on television, and with the growing number of companies under scrutiny, they'll soon add backdating stock options to their reasons for not trusting bosses in general. What option do they have?
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