The Justice Department announced yesterday that it would defer bringing criminal securities fraud charges against the America Online unit of Time Warner as long as Time Warner adopted corrective measures and allowed an independent monitor to oversee AOL’s financial operations for two years.
Separately, Time Warner announced that it had reached a tentative agreement with the enforcement division of the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle charges of accounting irregularities at AOL. The S.E.C.’s five commissioners still must consider the proposed settlement from the enforcement division.
The two agreements will cost Time Warner a total of $510 million.
Although its stock remained unchanged yesterday at $19.38 a share, it has risen 26 percent since mid-August as investors anticipated a settlement.
A spokesman for the Justice Department, Bryan Sierra, said yesterday that the Time Warner agreement did not cover individuals and that no one had been granted immunity. The investigation is continuing, and could result in additional criminal charges, said Paul J. McNulty, the United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, who is the lead government prosecutor on the criminal case.
Even after both settlements, Time Warner still faces a shareholder lawsuit that was filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan. The suit makes some of the same accusations as the S.E.C. Despite that possibility, investors are clearly pleased that the company is one step closer to putting numerous legal matters inherited in the AOL merger behind it.