A civil lawsuit accusing Henry Nicholas III, the former president and CEO of Broadcom Corp., of mistreating employees, using illegal drugs and paying for prostitutes, has reportedly caught the attention of U.S. law enforcement officials investigating stock options backdating at the company.
Nicholas, who resigned from Broadcom in January 2003, is the target of a civil lawsuit brought by cousins Kenji and Scott Kato, both former employees of Nicholas. The lawsuit, filed in November in Superior Court of California for the County of Los Angeles, alleges that Nicholas and his lawyers reneged on a settlement for wrongful termination and other claims.
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California, which is investigating stock options backdating at Broadcom, has begun looking into the Katos' claims. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation interviewed Kenji Kato in April, and this week, it began interviewing other Nicholas employees, the news report said.
Kenji Kato's lawyer, Joseph Kar, declined to comment on the U.S. Attorney's interest in the case. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the investigation.
Broadcom, a chip maker for communications devices, announced in January it would take a $2.24 billion charge for stock options backdating. Broadcom said it found options for 232.9 million shares of company stock that had been backdated, with 9.7 million of those shares going to executive officers.
Kenji Kato, who describes himself in court documents as a former personal assistant of Nicholas', said Nicholas and his lawyers offered him a settlement of more than US$2.9 million in November, then withdrew it. Kato had accused Nicholas of wrongful termination, breach of contract and infliction of emotional distress, among other things.
Kenji Kato worked for Nicholas from October 1999 to April 2006, and during much of that time, Nicholas threw wild parties and regularly used illegal drugs such as cocaine, according to a court filing from May. While at Broadcom, Nicholas hired prostitutes for clients and for himself, and he spiked customer drinks with powdered ecstasy pills to lower their "inhibitions and guard," Kato said in the filing.
Nicholas' lawyer, Steven Silverstein, didn't immediately return a phone call seeking comment on the lawsuit. But in court documents, Nicholas' lawyers deny the allegations and accuse Kato of attempting to extort money from Nicholas. Kato signed a confidentiality agreement when working for Nicholas, according to documents filed by Level 7 LLC and The Management Company LLC, two companies owned by Nicholas.
Kato has threatened to make public "certain sensitive private alleged facts ... which he had expressly promised to keep private," the Level 7 court documents say. "Kato's wrongful conduct by issuing these threats ... will cause great and irreparable injury to plaintiffs."
Nicholas regularly yelled at employees, and he demanded that Kenji Kato carry a bag with illegal drugs for him, according to Kenji Kato's filing. Nicholas also demanded that Kato use drugs along with him, Kato said.
"I was regularly exposed to ... a high degree of debauchery while working for Nick," he said in his filing. "The first time I used cocaine was when Nick shoved a tiny spoon up my nose because I was falling asleep, while he was talking to me. Over time, I got sucked into his extreme lifestyle."
By the end of Kato's employment, Nicholas was using "large quantities" of illegal drugs, including cocaine and heroin, and had withdrawn from his friends and family, according to Kato's May filing. Nicholas had stopped paying Kato, although he still demanded work from him, and when Kato walked out, Nicholas owed him $150,000 in back pay, the court documents say.
Nicholas had promised Kato employee benefits and Broadcom stock options, but he never delivered, according to Kato's filing.