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Former Comverse CEO hits charges

Alexander argues backdating stock options not illegal

JOHANNESBURG -- Comverse Technology Inc.'s founder and former chief executive Jacob Alexander said backdating stock options isn't illegal and that he relied on lawyers and accountants when dealing with the options.

"Backdating options is not illegal," Alexander's lawyers in Windhoek, Namibia, said in a statement e-mailed yesterday on his behalf. "Alexander relied on lawyers and accountants to draft Comverse's disclosures and to prepare its financial statements."

At least 200 firms have disclosed internal or federal investigations, and 100 said they must restate previously reported financial results. So far, the restatements, revisions, and charges exceed $11 billion. More than 70 executives and directors left their jobs and more than 300 lawsuits were filed against over 100 firms.

Alexander, 55, was arrested in Namibia in September, and is free on bail while the United States seeks his return to face 35 criminal counts in Brooklyn, N.Y., federal court related to securities fraud including stock option backdating. On May 10, Comverse's former general counsel, William Sorin, was sentenced to a year and a day in prison for allegedly participating in a backdating scheme with Alexander.

"The charges relate to the disclosure and accounting treatment of the options," Alexander's lawyers at Metcalfe Legal Practitioners wrote in the e-mailed statement, comparing his case to that of Apple Inc. chief executive Steve Jobs, who was cleared by the Securities and Exchange Commission of backdating.

"Alexander is neither a lawyer nor an accountant," according to the statement. The extradition hearing of Alexander, an Israeli citizen, was postponed by a Windhoek judge on Monday until July 9 after Alexander appointed two lawyers from South Africa who didn't have work permits to practice in Namibia.