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SEC to review its Qwest lawsuit

  Securities  -   POSTED: 2008/02/05 10:13

Federal regulators agreed Monday to review and perhaps streamline their civil fraud lawsuit against former Qwest executives so the allegations would not involve the company's secret business dealings with clandestine government agencies.

During a federal court hearing, Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Polly Atkinson said the bulk of the charges against former Chief Executive Officer Joe Nacchio and four others rely on historical data, not prospective government contracts.

However, she agreed to review the lawsuit at U.S. Magistrate Craig Shaffer's request. Shaffer gave the SEC 30 days for the review.

The judge's comments came as he considered a request from the Justice Department to prohibit the release of material related to secret Qwest negotiations, arguing that it would jeopardize national security.

The SEC has said the defendants' actions allowed Denver-based Qwest Communications International Inc. to improperly report approximately $3 billion in revenue that helped clear the way for its 2000 acquisition of the regional phone company U S West. The revenue was later restated.

The classified government material at issue is based on Nacchio's claims that Qwest would be in line for lucrative business contracts that gave him hope for the telecom's financial future.

Federal law restricts the public release of classified information. Nacchio's attorneys never brought up the classified information during his criminal trial last year when he was convicted of insider trading.

Nacchio was convicted of 19 counts of insider trading relating to $52 million worth of stock sales in 2001. He was sentenced in July to six years in prison but remains free on appeal.

The SEC case mirrors many of the issues that arose during Nacchio's criminal trial, charging the five men with concealing the amount of money from one-time sales of network capacity that was used to meet revenue targets.

Besides Nacchio, the defendants are former finance chief Robert Woodruff, former President Afshin Mohebbi and former accountants James Kozlowski and Frank T. Noyes.


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