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Dell Settles With the SEC For $100M 239

Sri.Theo writes in with news of Dell's humbling settlement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission. The core of the complaint is that Dell took secret payments from Intel to keep AMD's chips out of Dell's machines. The SEC calls it "accounting irregularities" — Dell was dipping into this secret slush fund to bolster its results, quarter by quarter. At one point the payments from Intel made up 76% of Dell's quarterly operating income. "For years, Dell's seemingly magical power to squeeze efficiencies out of its supply chain and drive down costs made it a darling of the financial markets. Now it appears that the magic was at least partly the result of a huge financial illusion. ... According to the commission, Dell would have missed analysts' earnings expectations in every quarter between 2002 and 2006 were it not for accounting shenanigans. ... (Intel is expected to settle a long-running anti-trust case that has highlighted these payments in the next couple of weeks.) ... Michael Dell... and Kevin Rollins, a former boss of the company, agreed to each pay a $4m penalty without admitting or denying the SEC's allegations."
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Dell Settles With the SEC For $100M

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  • Dude! (Score:5, Funny)

    by The Clockwork Troll ( 655321 ) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @11:34PM (#33018564) Journal
    Dude! You're getting a cell!
    • You can't believe the damage these punks did to the company. The rotten management made it a very unpleasant place to work. The rot went all through the company. The pressure to make numbers caused a lot of people to cheat knowing if they looked good then it made everyone up the chain look good and bumped the stock price up. It's not surprising the quality sucks.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Ash Vince ( 602485 )

        You can't believe the damage these punks did to the company

        You have one really weird idea of "damage". Michael Dell founded the business and is now worth $13.5 Billion. He built Dell computers into a business worth $33 Billion in assets with revenue of $59 Billion. If this is is damage you can damage my business any time.

        The truth is that you do not succeed in business by playing nice and being a good boy. You succeed by shafting people. There is the odd exception, but broadly speaking successful businesses are launched by people willing to do anything it takes to

        • The fact is Dell marked the transition of PC OEMs from a corporation which actually manufactured motherboards and other components, into someone which simply rebadges boxes made somewhere in China by a Taiwanese company. Digital went bankrupt and was bought by Compaq. Compaq was absorbed into HP. IBM sold its PC business to a Chinese company. Gateway went bankrupt and was bought by a Taiwanese company. HP traveled through rough waters and tethered on the brink of collapse. All because of Intel's "special r

    • No, if you or I stole that kind of money, we'd get a cell. (And yes, he stole it; Dell is a public corporation, ergo its cash reserves belong to the shareholders, not the CEO.) Michael Dell gets a "fine" which will hurt him about as much as losing a $5 bill would hurt the average Joe. "It's good to be the king!"

    • by mrmeval ( 662166 )

      No they paid a bribe to the government so they would not go to jail. It's not 'humbling' it shows how weak and ineffective the SEC really is. The top echelon of both companies should be in jail and each company broken up and sold off.

  • by itzdandy ( 183397 ) <> on Saturday July 24, 2010 @11:47PM (#33018618) Homepage

    My company currently runs a dell shop, running a mix of vostros, optiplexs, and over $100,000 in Dell servers.

    I have been having issue after issue with the power supplies in pretty much every dell I run. We really like to run the SFF style units and they use a specially sized power supply. Dell refuses to acknowledge that there is an issue even though I have a 25% failure rate in power supplies at the one year mark. They offered to give me a SWEET deal of $120 for a replacement power supply (on a $400 unit), down from the $150 list.

    So Dell has screwed consumers over on systems with bad capacitors, screwed consumers over with bad power supplies, cheated their shareholders by falsifying earnings, and competed unfairly by accepting bribe money from intel. bad company, bad products.


    • by Arcady13 ( 656165 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @12:27AM (#33018790) Homepage
      You need to pay for the 3 year warranty. Most Dell stuff we have (over 15,000 systems) breaks in the second or third year. We generally replace machines on a 3-4 year cycle. In the 4th year, the only thing that seems to fail is the hard drive.
    • That's exactly what $400 dollar small form factor machines are supposed to do, suck, suck hard, and fail if you look at them wrong

      That's the math of computers. Quality & Performance & Miniaturization & Aesthetic = Price. Enough people refuse to accept this and because there are vendors willing to take advantage of those people, many of them do so as not to lose market share and have their company killed by "Market Analysts" (Another group of people that seem incapable of doing the math of the
    • My company currently runs a dell shop

      New to dell shops. Nice to meet you.

      over $100,000 in Dell servers.

      I have been having issue after issue with the power supplies in pretty much every dell I run. We really like to run the SFF style units and they use a specially sized power supply. Dell refuses to acknowledge that there is an issue even though I have a 25% failure rate in power supplies at the one year mark.

      I have to call BS here. Dell servers come with 3 year maintenance at a minimum and will replace the power supplies. Power supplies are a known failure point on machines, and on those that care they get redundant ones. Also, I've never heard of SFF servers.

      I work with well over $2mil of Dell servers and more than that from other vendors. I prefer Dells.

  • by WarlockD ( 623872 ) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @11:53PM (#33018646)

    I get the reason why they did it, so they are not "criminaly negigent" but seriously? 4 years of having to restate all their earnings and eveything is cool?

    I get why, eveyone made a killing off the stock price jumps, but still, somone isn't getting jail time for this.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by 1stworld ( 929011 )
      This is how Crony Capitalism works. As long as you pay either to candidate campaigns or in fines, there are favors to be had at the Washington D.C. Bazaar. Government only goes after the little people and companies because they don't pay up.
    • WTF (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They colluded and engaged in a conspiracy in violation of SEC laws and they get a fine?

      A fine? This is beyond pathetic. The SEC may possibly be the worst organization on earth.

    • After all, this is the same SEC that couldn't catch Madoff or Stanford, even though there were people begging them to check those two out. Regulation is only as good as the regulator enforcing it.
      • After all, this is the same SEC that couldn't catch Madoff or Stanford, even though there were people begging them to check those two out. Regulation is only as good as the regulator enforcing it.

        I think you miss the point. They were supposed to turn a blind eye to it. Otherwise you'd waste an opportunity to implement Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis aka Problem, Reaction, Solution aka the Hegelian Dialectic. No one with any real power would have benefitted from preventing this. So they didn't act on any of the tips about Madoff or Stanford. From the point of view of the real "powers that be", these are good regulators, the very best that money can buy -- once someone buys them, or those who appoi

        • I have no clue what you are talking about. You sound like you're wearing a tinfoil hat.
  • by RenHoek ( 101570 ) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @11:58PM (#33018664) Homepage

    Only a $100M fine? Shows that crime _does_ pay time and again..

  • Just Dell? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Saturday July 24, 2010 @11:59PM (#33018666) Journal
    While it certainly appears, from TFA, that tales of Dell's l33t supply chain ninja-ness were fraudulently overstated, the sheer magnitude of their dependence on Intel's "rebates" makes me wonder if they were the only one.

    During that period, whenever I went shopping(either for personal use, or doing comparisons for employer bulk purchases) Dell always had very competitive prices; but not wildly different from comparable stuff from HP and friends. Either Dell's supply chain management absolutely sucked goats through capillary tubing, or some of their competitors must have had similar slush funds to work with.
    • ...or they were more profitable than any other computer manufacturer.
    • Dell always had very competitive prices; but not wildly different from comparable stuff from HP and friends

      I remember Dell pwning everyone in prices during that time. Dell was by far the cheapest every time anyone asked me to buy them a computer. And, cheapest by far. The only choice used to be which type of Dell.

      Maybe you didn't get those Dell coupons with $ and &s in them that would take 40% off. If you just went to or, they had similar prices but they had those coupons that would ta

  • I'm sick and tired of seeing these ethics-free corporations buy their way out of trouble without actually admitting to wrong-doing. If they aren't willing to sign a public statement that says, "We broke the law, but we'll save everybody a lot of trouble and money by simply paying for our criminal acts", the state should prosecute them to the full extent of the law, and use the well-established cowardice of market traders to drive down the stock price with carefully-timed announcements, added charges and p

    • by whoever57 ( 658626 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @12:30AM (#33018796) Journal
      Actually, I think it is worse than that. Management conned shareholders about how efficient the company was, and therefore how much the company could be expected to earn in the future. Who were the victims here: the shareholders. The SEC investigates and now the company has to pay a fine. Whose money pays the fine? The shareholders. Put simply, the victims of this fraud get to pay the fine. Yah! Well done SEC, that will provide a real incentive to stop execs doing this in the future. [Yes, I know that Michael Dell has to pay $4M, but this is a small amount to him -- probably less than the fraud earned him]
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by cacba ( 1831766 )
        Are these the same shareholders that elected those who committed the fraud?
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ISoldat53 ( 977164 )
          Michael, et al, controls the voting. We piddling shareholders have no real voice in the matter.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by bennomatic ( 691188 )
          Well, sort of. Mom and pop probably typically don't vote, but sign off on proxy statements to their investment bankers who do the voting. Any major investment banker with enough proxies to make a difference probably knew what was going on and made a mint themselves, but mom and pop didn't know.

          Even if they did vote, they did so based on lies and fabrications. GIGO, you know. The only thing you can blame them for is getting into the stock market in the first place. Once you're in, it's an elaborate g
  • Frustration (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @12:26AM (#33018786)

    I'm really frustrated with settlements. They seem to circumvent several basic principles of justice:

    • One should be considered innocent until proven guilty. If the SEC can't get a conviction, a judge should not allow a settlement. It sounds like a shakedown, not justice.
    • They let the wealthy buy their way out of criminal convictions, whereas the poor cannot.
    • They permit a corporation's finances prevent its workers from facing criminal responsibility for their actions.

    I've heard arguments for settlements such as, "We're not sure we could get a conviction. This lets us get at least a modicum of justice" Well if you're not sure, then maybe you shouldn't be trying to prosecute? It's for a jury to decide what's a just punishment, not the prosecutor.

    Or, "It lets us safe the legal expense of prosecuting." Well, if the system is so broken that cases can't be fought within the financial means of the government, then shouldn't it dawn on someone that it's way broken for individual citizens with limited financial resources?

    America was founded with some beautiful ideals, but I don't have a lot of respect for those who have evolved its legal practices.

    • by slick7 ( 1703596 )
      Any fine that is payable is better than being held criminally responsible. The precedent has been set, therefore "they" can do it again knowing that the "fee" is affordable.
    • by copponex ( 13876 )

      54% of the Senate is lawyers. The rules are not made to achieve justice, but to delay the case long enough to pad the bill.

    • by adolf ( 21054 )

      Just curious:

      "It lets us safe the legal expense of prosecuting."

      Is your use of "safe" some sort of typo, or an attempt at loosing the English language even further?

    • I'm not a lawyer, but I'm close to some who do and have done work in similar arenas. Sometimes, you know what will fly and what won't, and while you are absolutely sure of the rightness of your case, you know that if it goes to trial, there are a million ways that your opponent, if they're any good, could bust the case down. Maybe simple technicalities, but if that means that your client who deserves some remuneration get's nothing, you don't want that to happen.

      So you bluster and you bargain. You puf
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by phantomfive ( 622387 )

      They let the wealthy buy their way out of criminal convictions, whereas the poor cannot.

      It's all good, the poor get out of it their own way. Like the homeless guy who lives near my house, who got caught for DUI (don't ask where he got the car) declined to pay the fine and took jailtime instead. It was all good, he got a free haircut. Free food. He didn't have to pay for anything. Plus they gave him some good medical treatment for a skin rash he had. So the poor have their own way of getting out of it (this other guy I know got a commercial-robbery case thrown out of court because all he

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by selven ( 1556643 )

      Something like settlement extortion will exist for as long as it is cheaper to pay up than it is to defend yourself. Perhaps we should make the entire profession of lawyers illegal? (no sarcasm there)

  • by JakFrost ( 139885 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @02:27AM (#33019186)

    "The company neither admitted nor denied guilt as part of the settlement--a common phraseology in such deals."

    How about a big FUCK YOU to Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Department of Justice! How about you dig a little deeper, get the dirt on the direct involvement by Michael Dell and the other board members during the 4-year period and put these schmucks in San Quentin Federal Penitentiary. If you can't find the evidence, just use your powers of Extraordinary Rendition to send a few of these folks over to the Middle East or Africa, a little water boarding, pull of some fingernails and you could get just enough information to find hard evidence to try and convict these people.

    I could name a dozen good computer companies who disappeared during this time frame due to Dell's stellar rise in the computer market though shenanigans like this. Good computer companies that produced better products when under because they didn't cook their books like Dell did and didn't take bribes from Intel.

    Like another poster said, the pure computer companies that did survive like HP (previously Compaq), Acer, etc. might have been involved in this also.

    Intel did just settle the record breaking $1.4 Billion USD to the European Union's commission for violating anti-trust regulations or having to pay $1.2 Billion USD to AMD previously in a similar settlement.

    I'm still glad to see that the NY State case against Intel is still on-going and it would be great if other states and companies jump on this bandwagon for lynching Intel since these guys have been playing some dirty games for a long time. Time to hold Execute Officers directly responsible for criminal and immoral decisions directly liable for their actions and orders. Too bad that our government is in the pocket of big corporations and that no real sanctions will be taken against these business scumbags.

    Dell's success is now forever clouded by this and I think that looking at their shady little deal with Intel, I wouldn't put it past them if there was one going on right now with Microsoft for operating systems. Dell just did pull Ubuntu Linux OSes computers from their web site just as Linux is getting more acceptance by people due to Google's Android mobile OS success in the mobile market and also the upcoming tablet computer revolution. Microsoft isn't playing in this field and they are scared since they cannot compete.

  • by mykos ( 1627575 ) on Sunday July 25, 2010 @02:32AM (#33019206)
    Here's a way to give the consumers better competition and get rid of a shady computer manufacturer: Seek punitive damages that are two thousand+ times the actual damages (set actual damages at an amount equal to Intel payoffs to dell). Everyone wins, except Dell, and good riddance.
  • ....such matters benefit the SEC but the end consumers who were hurt by it never see anything returned to them in compensation, though stock holders might.

  • Hmm, I think we should all quit doing business with the USA. The Russian and Itallian Mafia vendors are more honorable. At least they don't periodically fsck up the whole world economy the way the Yanks have a habit of doing.
  • Show of hands (Score:2, Interesting)

    Who stuck with Compaq/HP when Dell was cheaper? I had client after client after client show me the Dell loss-leaders in comp magazine ads, and I stuck with what was at the time a better, if ultimately sinking, ship. After this disclosure about Dell, I feel a bit exonerated.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Ash-Fox ( 726320 )

      Sounds to me more like you don't know how to get the better deal. Instead you appear to be doing something some of us call "brand loyalty".

  • Dell buys chips from Intel.

    Intel allegedly pays Dell not to use AMD chips?

    Intel's payments allegedly make up 75% of Dell's quarterly operating income?

    This doesn't add up. That would mean that Intel was not making any profit from one of their biggest customer, but would even be LOSING money by doing it?

    Right. That kind of deal would be AMD's dream.

    • by Klinky ( 636952 )

      "Intel's payments allegedly make up 75% of Dell's quarterly operating income? " - during SOME quarters, not all of them. Also suppressing competition can be worth sacrificing theoretical profits. Even if you only make $1 per widget, if you're the only one selling widgets, you'll still make a killing.

  • I would love to know how much upper level management & the CEO were making, including bonuses, during this period.

  • Why isn't anybody commenting on the Intel side of this story? After all, they were the ones paying the bribes, or whatever you want to call that.

    Having suffered from Intel's legal belligerence in the past, I know that they are pretty good at getting their will done. But, are not two parts required for this, er, illicit transaction to take place? What about the other? Doesn't Intel hold a position much more akin to a de facto monopoly in the PC and server markets than Dell? Isn't paying to keep the competit

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