When a former chief executive is charged with a corporate crime, companies usually go out of their way to stay in the background.


Not so with Henry Yuen and Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc.


Not only has Los Angeles-based Gemstar gone so far as to impugn Yuen's character calling him "pathologically" deceitful, among other zingers it has pressed a judge to stiffen Yuen's sentence on obstruction of justice charges, calling it a "travesty of justice."


Then again, Gemstar has a strong motivation. Forcing a prison sentence may mean that the company won't have to fork over $29.5 million in severance payments Yuen is seeking.


"It's very unusual for a corporation to seek to get more criminal penalties heaped upon a former officer, and in this case the former CEO," said Brian Hennigan, a partner at Irell & Manella LLP, who represented a former executive of Homestore Inc. who was charged criminally.


"If they can get a case wrapped up with a lighter sentence and one with a smaller penalty, that's (usually) interpreted as a good thing from a corporate view," he said.


Earlier this month, Gemstar, which publishes TV Guide, argued that Yuen deserved a harsher sentence than the six months of home detention outlined in an October plea agreement with federal prosecutors. As part of that plea deal, Yuen admitted that he destroyed documents during a separate investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has charged that Gemstar inflated its revenue by $248 million from 2000 to 2002.


The company also took the unusual step of asking another U.S. attorney's office, in the Middle District of Florida, to launch a separate investigation of the allegations against Yuen.


Yuen's attorney, Stanley Arkin, a partner at Arkin Kaplan LLP in New York, told Bloomberg News that Gemstar's actions are part of "an insincere, malicious litigation ploy" used to avoid paying his client a severance package, which includes $29.5 million frozen by the SEC. Yuen and Elsie Leung, the former chief financial officer whose $8.1 million in severance payments also has been frozen, appealed to various courts to lift the freeze but were ultimately denied by the U.S. Supreme Court.


The SEC case is scheduled to go to trial next month against Yuen and Leung, and the outcome of the obstruction of justice case will be an issue.


"What's going on here is this company, Gemstar, wants to see if they can get out of various economic responsibilities they have," said Arkin. "Henry Yuen never, ever, ever did anything intentionally or knowingly to harm Gemstar."

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