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Microsemi CEO Still in Denial About Alleged Fabricated Degrees

microsemi-peterson.jpgLast week, the Fraud Discovery Institute accused Microsemi CEO James Peterson of lying in SEC documents about two degrees. According to Brigham Young University, Peterson received no degrees from the University. He was identified by name and social security number.

If the accusation is true, and it certainly appears to be, Peterson may have dug a bigger hole for himself by failing to admit he misrepresented his degrees. Rather, he issued a press release entitled: Microsemi's CEO Peterson Denies Misrepresenting Degrees From BYU.
In another release, Microsemi Board Chairman Dennis Leibel "emphasized that Mr. Peterson has the full support of the Board and there are no plans to alter his role as President and Chief Executive Officer --"

Granted, lying about degrees, even in SEC documents, isn't the worst type of fraud I can imagine. But, in a Bloomberg report, Robert Heim, a former assistant regional director of the SEC in New York, said, "From the SEC's point of view, putting out a public statement is a much more serious occurrence than merely misrepresenting the status of one's degree."

In stark contrast, Broadcom's board immediately terminated Senior Vice President of Global Manufacturing Vahid Manian for allegedly fabricating two degrees from UC Irvine. Manian was exposed by the same watchdog group on the same day as Peterson. This sort of thing isn't new to Broadcom, which was wracked by scandal when founder and former-CEO Henry T. Nicholas III was indicted on securities fraud, conspiracy, and federal narcotics charges in June.

Last week, BNET readers responded to the question, "Should boards unceremoniously terminate an executive who lies in SEC documents" this way:

"I think that they should be held accountable and if corporations are consistent about this (firing them), eventually the practice might stop."

"If the allegations are true, immediate resignation is in order, and immediate firing if they do not resign. It's not for the lack of degree, but for the lack of honesty."

"SEC guidelines and reporting are -- to protect the public. Do we really thing that lying and greed and such patterns of immorality end in some dusty file and have no consequence? The current economic crisis answers that question - loud and clear!"

"IMHO just like executives employed in our government -- they should be fired and publicly exposed. People who lie, cheat and steal have butchered our economy at our expense. All people must be held accountable for their poor judgment and lack of integrity."

Now that I've had time to think about it, I'm not sure I completely agree. Let's say someone lies on his resume to get his first job. Fast-forward 10 or 20 years, he's a senior executive of a public company and gets caught. At that point, if he comes clean and offers to resign, then I think it's up to the board.

To me, that's different from the arrogant and dysfunctional behavior exhibited by Peterson and Microsemi's board. The sad fact is that it will likely take an SEC action to get Peterson out of there.

What do you think? Does it make a difference if the executive comes clean, or should he or she be out regardless? Are you surprised that the SEC has yet to initiate an investigation into the Microsemi situation?

Incidentally, Peterson - whose license plate reads GR8LUCK - earned $1.16 million in fiscal 2007 and owned 1.1 million shares of Microsemi stock, as reported in the company's fiscal 2007 proxy statement.

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