The current situation stems from the backdating controversy, in which many companies, particularly tech firms, retroactively granted stock options on days when the share price was low, thus ensuring a larger potential payoff. This backdating has captured the attention of the Securities and Exchange Commission as well as the U.S. Department of Justice. Last week, the SEC settled charges with Mercury Interactive (since acquired by Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ)) and Brocade Communications Systems ( BRCD), with the two companies paying penalties of $28 million
and $7 million, respectively . A side effect of the backdating has been the scramble among many companies to review their books for such accounting shenanigans and to restate any necessary past financial results. As the laborious review process has plodded forward, the unresolved issues in past accounting data have meant that auditors cannot sign off on recent earnings reports. The resulting delays in filing the reports created the current bind by triggering automatic delisting notices from Nasdaq. Many companies have won extensions, giving them more time to file their missing reports, by appealing the delisting notices to different rungs of Nasdaq's administrative review ladder. One such rung -- the Nasdaq Listing and Hearing Review Council -- has already shown itself more lenient than in the past by freezing delisting orders while it considers individual cases.