Software maker i2 Technologies Inc. yesterday agreed to pay $10 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges that the Dallas company improperly accounted for licensing deals that involved more than $1 billion in revenue over several years.
SEC officials claimed that the company, which grew rapidly through acquisitions during the Internet boom of the late 1990s, booked revenue too early on several deals, before its products had been delivered or fully implemented at client sites. Moreover, according to court papers, i2 improperly recognized $44 million in revenue from barter deals with other unnamed firms.
The company previously restated its financial results for 1999 to 2002, increasing total losses during that period by $207 million. Last month i2 agreed to pay $85 million to settle class-action lawsuits filed by shareholders. About half of the settlement money came from insurance policies, i2 said.
The company's accounting misdeeds were "endemic" and sometimes designed to help meet Wall Street earnings targets, said Harold F. Degenhardt, administrator of the SEC's Fort Worth office, in a written statement. The company's stock price was as high as $60 a share in late 2000. It is now trading at less than $1.
"Trying to squeeze square pegs into round holes for the sake of inflating revenues, as i2 did here, is a deceptive and unsustainable practice that will be firmly punished," said Spencer C. Barasch, enforcement chief in the Fort Worth office.
Melanie Ofenloch, an i2 spokeswoman, said the company is "pleased to have concluded this investigation." She added that i2 had already accounted for the $10 million settlement in its first-quarter earnings call. The company did not admit or deny wrongdoing as part of yesterday's settlement. No individual employees were named yesterday by regulators, who said the probe is ongoing.
Problems with the way companies book revenue cause more accounting restatements than any other issue, according to studies by the Chicago firm Huron Consulting Group Inc. In 2000, the McLean software firm MicroStrategy Inc. settled SEC charges stemming from improper revenue recognition without paying a financial penalty. Three corporate officers, including chief executive Michael J. Saylor, agreed to pay $350,000 each. Neither the company nor its executives admitted wrongdoing.
The SEC alleged that i2 ignored, or was "reckless" in not realizing, problems with the way it handled revenue from the software licensing deals. The agency claimed that a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor exposed shortcomings with the company's software and sales practices in a June 2001 report that was not made known to outside auditors or the i2 audit committee until September 2002.