Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. ...has received notice from the Securities and Exchange Commission that it is conducting an informal non-public investigation into certain stock option grants made by the Company from January 1997 to the present. Prior to receiving the notice, the Company had initiated an internal review of the Company's option grants, led by a committee consisting of independent board members who have retained independent legal counsel and accountants to assist in the review. The Company intends to respond to the SEC's information request and to fully cooperate in the informal investigation.
Most likely, the investigation is regarding potential manipulation of prices and issue dates of stock options given to executives, which would have artificially inflated the value of those options. Tech news organization CNET Networks, owner of gaming press site GameSpot, is facing similar investigation. This is not the first time Take-Two has had a run in with the SEC. Last year, the publisher was fined $7.5M by the SEC following a four year investigation into alleged fraudulent accounting practices. At time of writing Take-Two stock is down 7.52% from its previous close, to $9.34.
Though Take-Two and Rockstar have had one of the best selling games of recent memory in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2, Xbox, PC), the past year has been undeniably rocky for the closely related companies. GameDaily claims to have obtained a list of key employees which have reportedly left the company in the last 12 months, though it is unclear whether those alleged departures will hurt the company or will work towards necessary cost-cutting.