agreed to pay $144 million in cash and stock to settle shareholder lawsuits over its prior accounting practices.
The St. Louis-based cable operator said its insurance carrier will pay $64 million in cash and the company will hand over $80 million in stock to settle with plaintiffs in 18 class action and derivative lawsuits. Charter said the settlement would effectively end litigation pending for two years.
The news comes just a week after the company settled with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
in a similar case. As part of that settlement, Charter neither admitted nor denied any wrongdoing and the SEC assessed no fine against the company.
The SEC's investigation covered how Charter counted its customers, along with various accounting practices and procedures concerning capitalization of certain expenses and dealings with certain vendors, including programmers and digital set-top terminal suppliers.
"The settlement of the securities litigation effectively closes the books on these serious legal matters confronting the company," CEO Carl Vogel said. "We can now devote our complete and full attention to serving customers and growing revenue. We will also maintain our efforts to improve our debt structure in ways that will give us increased financial and operating flexibility."
As part of the settlement, Charter will also commit to maintaining or implementing certain corporate governance measures. "We welcome any changes that will improve our corporate governance and are committed to operating our business consistent with the highest ethical standards," Vogel said. "This has been a focus of mine since I started at Charter."
In July 2003, the Justice Department decided not to charge the company as part of an investigation into business practices at Charter during 2000 and 2001, most of which were the focus of the civil lawsuits that are now in the process of being settled. The government's investigation did result in the indictment of four former Charter officers.
Early Friday, Charter slipped a nickel to $2.91.