CalPERS is after info on UnitedHealth's backdating

  • Article by: DAVID PHELPS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 9, 2008 - 10:33 PM

Attorneys argue for access to UnitedHealth's stock-option decisionmaking process.

The California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) asked a federal judge Monday to unseal volumes of evidence gathered in the UnitedHealth Group shareholder lawsuit, including depositions of top executives and internal memos discussing stock-option backdating.

CalPERS attorney Ramzi Abadou told U.S. Magistrate Judge Franklin Noel that release of the protected documents is necessary for shareholders to determine if they want to be part of the class suing the Minnetonka-based health conglomerate.

"It's onerous to restrict the public's right to these documents," Abadou said.

But UnitedHealth attorney Peter Carter called the CalPERS request overly broad and open ended.

Carter argued that opening the company's corporate records would put the privacy of thousands of employees at risk by potentially releasing personal information, including financial data. "What should be more nonpublic than an individual's financial information?" he said.

Carter also said sensitive commercial information could end up in the public domain if the records are unsealed. "There are books for the board of directors which have highly confidential documents," he said.

Abadou said CalPERS is not interested in the personal information of all UnitedHealth employees who may have received stock options as part of their compensation.

Rather, Abadou said, Cal-PERS wants to make public the decisionmaking process in the backdating of options that ultimately was found to be in violation of financial accounting standards and resulted in the departure of top executives and board members.

As for providing competitors with financial insight into UnitedHealth's strategic business thinking, quite the opposite would be the case, Abadou asserted.

"This is about backdated options. It [unsealing] would serve as a cautionary tale of what not to do," he said.

Noel said he would issue a ruling shortly.

David Phelps • 612-673-7269

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