trial date nowhere on the horizon
By Jeff Smith
Rocky Mountain News
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
The governmentís civil fraud suit against six former Qwest
executives isnít likely to go to trial until at least 2007,
a federal magistrate judge said Wednesday as he tried to
figure out a way for some discovery to go forward before
memories of key events wane. Much of the civil fraud suit
filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission last March
has been frozen so it wonít interfere with the criminal
insider-trading case against former CEO Joe Nacchio.
Some of the defendants in the civil case had agreed on a
plan to conduct depositions this year of 12 people including
outside auditors involved in accounting issues in the late
1990s underlying the SEC charges.
While federal Magistrate Judge Craig Shaffer talked in
length about his desire to try to preserve "fresh
recollections," he questioned whether such depositions would
move the case forward, especially if Nacchioís legal team or
others decide they have to retake the depositions later.
"Iím not convinced this is the best use of time," Shaffer
said, adding he is willing to revisit the issue in August.
Shaffer ultimately decided to allow only certain written
discovery, or exchange of evidence, to go forward, most
related to civil-fraud defendants James Kozlowski and Frank
Noyes, both former Qwest accountants.
Others facing the civil-fraud charges are former chief
operating officer Afshin Mohebbi, and former chief financial
officers Robin Szeliga and Robert Woodruff. Former top
sales executive Gregory Casey already settled with the SEC.
The SEC accused the former executives of orchestrating a
massive, $3 billion financial fraud between 1999-2002.