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A former Broadcom HR exec has plead guilty to obstruction of justice charges - a move that's part of the government's relentless investigation into a sweeping stock options backdating scandal.

The US Attorney's Office today revealed that Nancy Tullos, the one-time VP of human resources at Broadcom, will cooperate with investigators as part of her plea agreement. Tullos was accused of telling a subordinate to erase an email that the government considered evidence of option backdating by Broadcom execs and board members. The HR ex will appear for arraignment in Dec. and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in a federal prison.

According to the Attorney's Office, Tullos helped Broadcom executives recruit an engineer to the networking device company in 1999. She discussed the potential hire with executives and asked on May 25, 1999 if Broadcom planned to make an offer. More messages were exchanged over the next day that continued to debate portions of the hiring process.

Tullos then left for vacation and came back on June 4 to learn that the engineer had in fact been hired, the government claims.

"Several weeks later, Tullos received an electronic mail from a subordinate asking if the engineer’s true hire date was May 25, 1999, noting that this date was used 'most likely to lock in a particular price' for the engineer’s stock options," the Attorney's Office said. "Tullos responded in a one line electronic mail: 'pls. delete this message.'

"Tullos admits in her plea agreement that she instructed her subordinate to delete this electronic mail because she was concerned that the hire date was after May 25, 1999, and did not want the electronic mail to be turned over to the authorities."

The Attorney's Office goes on to point to later emails from the newly hired engineer where he grumbles about his hire date showing up as 5/28 rather than 5/25. "The option price is showing to be $95.75 instead of $88.375. I hope this is just a simple clerical error since that has been a major key deciding factor” in taking the job.

Tullos says that she eventually learned Broadcom granted the employee 120,000 options on May 25.

The stock options scandal has been the talk of Silicon Valley for a very long time and has touched companies such as Apple, Juniper Networks, Mercury Interactive and most publicly Brocade.

If, however, you're bored by options grants but into Broadcom and cocaine-fueled orgy torture charges, you can be satiated here. ®

Register editor Ashlee Vance has just pumped out a new book that's a guide to Silicon Valley. The book starts with the electronics pioneers present in the Bay Area in the early 20th century and marches up to today's heavies. Want to know where Gordon Moore eats Chinese food, how unions affected the rise of microprocessors or how Fairchild Semiconductor got its start? This is the book for you - available at Amazon US here or in the UK here.

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