Updated from 2:38 p.m. EDT Computer Associates ( CA), embroiled in an ugly accounting scandal, fired nine employees Monday in its legal and finance departments. The company said the terminations are effective immediately and "come as a result of issues raised during the independent investigation by the CA board of director's audit committee into the company's accounting practices." It's not clear if CA will be forced to restate earlier financial statements, or how large a restatement might be. CA is believed to have backdated software revenue to make it appear that its previous quarters were up to expectations. The former CFO and two other former finance executives of the company
pleaded guilty earlier this month to criminal securities fraud in a Brooklyn federal court. The firings were a shoe that had been waiting to drop for weeks and the scandal has already been priced into the stock, said analyst James Mendleson, of Schwab Soundview Capital Markets. "CA has been selling at a long-standing discount," he said. In recent trading, CA was off 33 cents, or 1.3%, to $26. However, the fate of CEO Sanjay Kumar is still unclear; a report in The New York Times Monday suggested that the company's board will meet this week to decide. Although CA's board has been held up as an example of bad corporate governance, that image may well be dated. Greg Taxin, CEO of Glass Lewis, a proxy advisory service, said "the company has sought new blood, and this has encouraged shareholders." Indeed, one of the relatively new members, Walter P. Schuetze, former chief accountant for the Securities and Exchange Commission, heads the audit committee charged with investigating the scandal. Despite the wave of negative publicity, analysts said that the company's core business, selling mainframe and network software, is solid. "There's no debate about that," said Mendleson, whose company does not have a banking relationship with CA.
Why isn't Kumar one of the names on the list? "It could well be that the board has not yet found a successor," said one sell-side analyst who requested anonymity. "It would be dangerous to fire him and maybe a few other senior executives and leave the company headless." Mike Trigg, who follows CA for Morningstar, said investors still have plenty to worry about if they are thinking of investing CA. "Given the looming federal investigation, a management team that we don't trust, and an increasingly difficult competitive environment, this stock is extremely risky, in our opinion. We'd pass unless the shares became unavoidably cheap," he said in a recent report.