Former McKesson Corp. Chief Financial Officer Richard Hawkins, in his federal criminal bench trial, was acquitted on all counts regarding responsibility for overstated earnings following the company's 1999 purchase of software maker HBO & Co. Hawkins was charged with securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and lying to auditors. In a 37-page decision, U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins in San Francisco said he found Hawkins more credible than that his accusers, several of whom had plea agreements containing promises of leniency in return for cooperation. Jenkins also said he did not see that the government had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Hawkins "intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth of material misleading statements" engaged in any behavior that constituted fraud or deceit upon stockholders. In a statement, U.S. Attorney Kevin Ryan thanked the FBI and trial team for its work and said his office was disappointed but respected the court's decision. The five-week bench trial concluded in February.
Hawkins still may face a civil complaint by the Securities and Exchange Commission accusing him of making false public announcements regarding company financial results. The SEC complaint, filed in January 2004, was stayed pending conclusion of the criminal trial. Marc Fagel, head of enforcement at the SEC's San Francisco office, said he had just read of the decision and was not sure when the stay would be lifted or "what happens next." -- by Joseph Conn