SEC Formalizes Probe Into UnitedHealth's Stock Options Practices

December 27, 2006 ( - The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has kicked off a formal investigation into the stock options practices of managed care company UnitedHealth Group Inc.

The investigation into the company’s stock options practices dates as far back as May, when an internal investigation unearthed a “significant deficiency” in its controls relating to the administration of its stock options (SeeUnitedHealth Under Fire for Stock Options ).

The findings of the probe led to the ousting of Chairman and Chief Executive Officer William McGuire in October (See   UnitedHealth’s McGuire To Depart over Stock Options Scandal), an estimated $1.7 billion in restated earnings and a corporate governance overhaul (See  UnitedHealth Governance Actions Prompted by Backdating Scandal).

While the company admitted to an informal questioning by the SEC over its options practices, the agency has, until now, put off a formal investigation – a notice that UnitedHealth received on December 19, according to a filing by UnitedHealth to the regulator, Business Insurance reported.

The focus on UnitedHealth is part of a wide-ranging probe into the options programs at a number of companies that has sparked many such firms to jettison involved corporate officers (See  Corporate Carnage Continues in Stock Options Scandal with Monster Firing ).