Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Christopher Cox sent a stark warning on Wednesday to companies that have engaged in improper timing of stock option grants.
Speaking to reporters, Cox said that the commission is vigorously proceeding with probes at more than 100 public companies and that it is working closely with federal prosecutors, according to the Associated Press.
“This is a very aggressive program,” Cox reportedly asserted.
Critics have maintained that federal prosecutors and the SEC have been slow to begin criminal and civil proceedings, noting that so far they have charged only a handful of individuals at two technology companies, Brocade Communications Systems and Comverse Technology.
On Wednesday, Bloomberg observed that Brocade, the government’s first corporate target in the backdating investigations, has been waiting since July for the agency to approve a $7 million settlement.
Cox also disputed published accounts that the SEC’s enforcement efforts have stalled because commissioners disagree over whether companies should be fined. Opponents contend that in such cases, levying a fine on a company would cause additional harm to shareholders, who were already harmed by the underlying transgression.
According to the Bloomberg account, the SEC’s four other commissioners are split along party lines on this issue.
The wire service also noted that in December, Cox told reporters: “I have never been committed to unanimous votes no matter what. What I am committed to is every commissioner having significant input into the decisions at the SEC.”