Take-Two founder pleads guilty

Publisher's former CEO to pay almost $7.3 million to settle charges stemming from stock-option scandal.

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Former CEO of Take-Two Interactive, Ryan Brant, has agreed to part with almost $7.3 million in connection to the publisher's ongoing stock option scandal, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced today. That sum includes $6.3 million to settle civil charges the SEC filed against him, and another $1 million to New York state and local authorities. Brant also pled guilty to first-degree felony criminal charges of falsifying business records.

One of Take-Two's founders, Brant stepped down as chairman and director of the company in March 2004, assuming the role of vice president of publishing. He left the company in October 2006, after being officially on disability since June. Last month, Take-Two released the results of its independent investigation into the scandal, pinning the blame squarely on Brant.

The SEC believes that from 1997 to 2003, Brant granted stock options to himself and other employees and altered the records regarding when the options were granted in order to make them instantly profitable to the receiver. The civil complaint said that this was done in most cases without the approval of the board of directors but that other Take-Two employees prepared false documents to back up the stock option grants at Brant's direction.

This is not the first time Brant has run afoul of the SEC. According to the commission, he paid $3.6 million to settle with the group for his alleged role in a "massive financial fraud" case at Take-Two in 2000-2001.

As for the current Take-Two scandal, the SEC said its investigation is continuing. With investors perhaps taking this as a sign that the stock option scandal is coming to an end for the publisher, Take-Two shares jumped 8 percent today, closing up $1.61 to $20.97.

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