IBM sued by shareholder over alleged securities fraud

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IBM sued by shareholder over alleged securities fraud

Claims Big Blue overvalued chip unit.

IBM has been sued by a shareholder who claims the company committed securities fraud by failing to write down a money-losing semiconductor unit before agreeing to pay another company US$1.5 billion to take over the unit.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court arose from IBM's announcement last October that it would sell the unit to GlobalFoundries, and take a related US$4.7 billion pre-tax charge.

IBM also announced third-quarter results that day, after which its share price fell 9 percent over the next two trading days, wiping out more than US$18 billion of market value.

The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the suit

According to the complaint, IBM inflated its stock price before selling the semiconductor unit by carrying the unit's property, plant and equipment assets on its books at US$2.4 billion, when it should have known the assets were worthless.

The complaint said potential bidders had been unwilling to pay much more than US$1 billion for the entire unit, including intellectual property and personnel, suggesting that the hard assets had no or negative market value.

The lawsuit by the City of Sterling Heights Police & Fire Retirement System in Michigan also named three IBM officials as defendants, including CEO Virginia Rometty.

It is seeking class-action status on behalf of shareholders from April 17 to Oct. 17, 2014.

"Defendants presented a misleading picture of IBM's business and prospects," the complaint reads. "When the truth about the company was revealed to the market, the price of IBM common stock fell precipitously."

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