Law Firms

Backdating Troubles Wilson Sonsini

Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati fired one of its partners last fall, reportedly because he failed to warn the outside company he was advising about backdating stock options.

Christopher Mitchell was fired after high-tech company Sanmina-SCI Corp. announced it had improperly backdated most stock options since 1997, according to the Recorder. Sources told the legal newspaper he was targeted for failing to pick up on the problems.

Another member of the law firm, name partner Mario Rosati, was a member of the San Jose, Calif., company’s board. Wilson Sonsini has been criticized for allowing partners to become company directors because of potential conflicts that can arise when the duty to the company conflicts with the duty to the firm.

The revelation is the latest embarrassment for Wilson Sonsini. Around half of the Silicon Valley companies under scrutiny for backdating stock options were clients of the law firm, according to the legal newspaper.

In one case, the former CEO of Brocade Communications said lead partner Larry Sonsini urged the board to give him the authority to grant stock options with little oversight, according to a 2006 Business Week article.

Mitchell did return the legal newspaper’s phone calls. The law firm has maintained it is involved in so many options cases simply because it advises such a large number of high-tech firms.

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