The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of two former executives of Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. who are seeking access to $37.6 million in severance payments.


The payments were frozen as part of a Securities and Exchange Commission civil case against Gemstar's former chief executive, Henry Yuen, and former chief financial officer Elsie Leung. The SEC, which froze $29.5 million in severance pay to Yuen and $8.1 million to Leung, has accused the former executives of inflating Gemstar's revenue by at least $223 million.


The recent dispute has centered on rules outlined in the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act that allow investigators to freeze "extraordinary" payments to executives under investigation.


The commission received a court order to block the severance payments in May 2003 and sued both executives one month later. A 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel reversed the order, but a full panel of the 9th Circuit reinstated it later.


In their appeal to the Supreme Court, Yuen and Leung claimed that the SEC lacked the authority to freeze those payments.


Now, the two face a civil trial in December.


Earlier this month, Yuen pleaded guilty to separate criminal charges of destroying documents during the SEC's investigation. As part of the plea agreement, Yuen will be sentenced to up to six months of home detention, as part of two years of probation in which he may not serve as an officer or director of any publicly traded company. Yuen also must donate $1 million to charities representing low-income victims of fraud and pay an additional $200,000 fine.


News Corp. owns 41 percent, or a controlling stake, in Los Angeles-based Gemstar.

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