Blackberry Maker Settles Options Backdating Case

Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) has worked out a settlement of stock options backdating charges with the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC).

A New York Times news report said the settlement was announced both by the Waterloo, Ontario-based RIM and the OSC after the conclusion of an OSC investigation into RIM’s options practices.

In addition to the company, the OSC settlement covers eight current and former directors and executives, including the founders James L. Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis. The OSC was scheduled to consider the agreement Thursday.

The OSC said in a statement that the backdating, which took place between 1996 and 2006, generated an improper gain for employees totaling $66 million Canadian. The targets, the OSC said, have offset about half of that amount through repayments as well as canceled and forfeited options.

In a brief statement, RIM said it was “pleased that the parties have reached an agreement on terms of settlement.” RIM pointed out it had voluntarily disclosed the backdating to regulators in 2006.

After an examination by its board, the company incurred a $248 million expense related to accounting changes caused by improper options grants. Balsillie also agreed to step down as chairman but has remained a director and co-chief executive.

According to the news report, Lazaridis and Balsillie have paid $15 million Canadian toward the cost of the securities regulators investigation to date and the company has contributed $45 million Canadian.

The exact terms of the settlement had not been made public Wednesday, according to the news report.

More information about the case is available from the OSC here.