Pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb has agreed to pay regulators in the United States $150m to settle charges of accounting fraud. (See: Press Releases, below).

The securities and exchange commission accused the firm of inflating sales by encouraging wholesalers to overstock its products then recognising this revenue too early. It said that from the first quarter of 2000 to the end of 2001, it inflated sales by $1.5bn to make it appear the firm had met Wall Street analysts’ expectations.

The company did not admit or deny the charges yesterday but has agreed to pay a penalty of $100m and put $50m into a fund for shareholders. Earlier last year Bristol-Myers Squibb had to restate its sales and profits for a three-year period.

“For two years Bristol-Myers deceived the market into believing it was meeting its financial projections and market expectations when in fact the company was making its numbers primarily through channel-stuffing and manipulative accounting devices,” said Timothy Warren of the SEC.

“Severe sanctions are necessary to hold Bristol-Myers accountable for its violative conduct.” The regulator is still investigating the conduct of the individuals involved.