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Federal judge finds ex-PurchasePro boss guilty

  Securities  -   POSTED: 2008/05/16 15:50

The former chairman and CEO of PurchasePro.com, a business-to-business software broker that died during the dot-com bust, has been found guilty of securities fraud, witness tampering and other crimes, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

Charles "Junior" Johnson, who resigned as chairman and CEO in May 2001, was found guilty in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia of conspiring to commit securities fraud, securities fraud, witness tampering and obstructing an official proceeding. Judge Walter Kelley released his verdict Thursday after a bench trial that finished in December.

Johnson founded PurchasePro.com in 1996, and the company was one of the dot-com boom's early success stories. PurchasePro, which had a close relationship with AOL, sold computer software through a B-to-B marketing license, allowing businesses to buy and sell products on the Internet, to participate directly in PurchasePro's own Web-based marketplace and to create their own branded marketplace using PurchasePro's software.

The company went public in September 1999, and shares leapt 117 percent the first day to close at US$26.13. In December 1999, the company's adjusted stock price hit a peak of nearly $396 a share.

In March 2000 and April 2001, the company signed deals with AOL, the latter to jointly develop a B-to-B marketplace called Netscape Netbusiness Marketplace. But in late April 2001, the company announced its earnings would be significantly lower than Wall Street expectations, and that same month, investors filed a class-action lawsuit against the company, accusing its executives of improperly recognizing revenue as a way to pump up stock prices.

In August 2002, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission began investigating AOL's relationship with PurchasePro, and in September 2002, PurchasePro filed for bankruptcy.


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