SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A former executive vice president and general counsel for McAfee claims the anti-virus software giant destroyed his reputation by making him the fall guy for its securities violations. Kent Roberts claims that while the SEC was investigating McAfee for backdating stock option grants, the company cooked up a plan that was “literally dubbed … ‘Project Shield,'” to scapegoat him and shield then-CEO George Samenuk and other board members from blame.
“Through Project Shield, McAfee succeeded in redirecting the SEC’s and federal prosecutors’ attention away from Samenuk and individual board members and onto Roberts,” according to the federal complaint.
Roberts says that Samenuk and audit committee director Robert Dutkowsky falsely reported that he had confessed to conspiring to backdate the stock options for his own benefit, reaping $150,000 to $200,000.
The McAfee board fired him, claiming that the termination was “‘for cause’ based on admissions already made to three directors,” and issued a press release stating that Roberts “had committed malfeasance,” according to the complaint.
Roberts says he was “innocent of wrongdoing and only incidentally involved with the stock option program, [but was] the only McAfee officer indicted in connection with the company’s stock-option practices. … McAfee’s BOD – not Roberts – was responsible for allocating and approving stock-option grants to employees, as well as reviewing and approving the company’s options-granting policies. As to the pertinent stock options, Roberts was not responsible for granting or approving stock options for the company, nor was he ever responsible for McAfee’s financial accounting and reporting.”
Roberts says a federal jury acquitted him after a three week trial, and the SEC dismissed its proceedings against him. He claims that “McAfee – which instigated, encouraged, and facilitated Roberts’ prosecution – continue to publicize false and defamatory allegations of Roberts’ supposed ‘improper’ conduct relating to stock options with full knowledge of their falsity.”
Roberts says the damage to his character is irreparable, and that “McAfee devastated his opportunities for future employment.”
Roberts seeks punitive damages for malicious prosecution and defamation. He is represented by Mary Dryovage.