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"For me, the practice of a lot of people involved in creating bogus minutes, high level people, shocks me," she said.

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Members of the team, who have also worked with the U. Justice Department on backdating issues, declined to discuss specific cases or ongoing investigations.

When the issues first came up, Faglel said his team didn't exactly know what it was dealing with.

In an interview last month, Fagel's team talked at length about the investigation, which has led to legal action, including criminal indictments, against top executives from well-known tech firms such as Apple Inc.

Stock options give employees the right to buy shares in the future at the market price on the date a grant is approved.

Fagel has led a team of about 30 attorneys, accountants and paralegals with the U. Securities and Exchange Commission office in San Francisco, who have combed through millions of e-mails and conducted dozens of interviews in a stock-options backdating scandal.

Their work is now seen as having shed more light on how many tech companies manipulated stock-option grants by filing false financial information and sometimes even doctoring or making up meeting minutes -- even as some other legal experts argue that the agency has overreached by mistaking record-keeping and administration glitches for fraud.

One of the investigation's first major cases ended this week when a federal judge in San Francisco sentenced ex-Brocade CEO Gregory Reyes to 21 months in prison and ordered him to pay a million fine. Reyes is the first CEO to be sentenced to jail time for his role in stock-options backdating.

Several other executives have struck plea agreements and paid hefty civil fines.

Juniper Networks has agreed to pay a massive 9 million fee to settle a class-action lawsuit with New York Clity pension funds and other investors over a backdated stock options scandal.

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