WASHINGTON—A former senior executive of Texas-based ArthroCare Corp., a publicly traded medical device company, pleaded guilty today for his role in a scheme to defraud the company’s shareholders and members of the investing public by falsely inflating ArthroCare’s earnings, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Robert Pitman for the Western District of Texas.
David Applegate, 54, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Lane in Austin, Texas, to two counts of a superseding information which charges him with conspiracy to commit securities, mail and wire fraud, and with a false statements violation. Applegate was the senior vice president in charge of ArthroCare’s Spine Division. Applegate admitted that he and other co-conspirators inflated falsely ArthroCare’s sales and revenue through a series of end-of-quarter transactions involving ArthroCare’s distributors and that he and other co-conspirators caused ArthroCare to file a Form 10-K for 2007 with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that materially misrepresented ArthroCare’s quarterly and annual sales, revenues, expenses and earnings.
According to court documents, Applegate and others determined the type and amount of product to be shipped to distributors, notably ArthroCare’s largest distributor, DiscoCare Inc., based on ArthroCare’s need to meet sales forecasts, rather than the distributors’ actual orders. Applegate and others then caused ArthroCare to “park” millions of dollars’ worth of ArthroCare’s medical devices at its distributors at the end of each relevant quarter. ArthroCare would then report these shipments as sales in its quarterly and annual filings at the time of the shipment, enabling the company to meet or exceed internal and external earnings forecasts.
According to the superseding information, DiscoCare agreed to accept shipment of approximately $37 million of product in exchange for substantial, upfront cash commissions, extended payment terms and the ability to return product, as well as other special conditions, allowing ArthroCare to inflate falsely its revenue by tens of millions of dollars. To conceal the fact that DiscoCare owed ArthroCare a substantial amount of money on the unused inventory, ArthroCare, with Applegate’s knowledge, caused ArthroCare to acquire DiscoCare on December 31, 2007.
According to court documents, between December 2005 and December 2008, ArthroCare’s shareholders held more than 25 million shares of ArthroCare stock. On July 21, 2008, after ArthroCare announced publicly that it would be restating its previously reported financial results from the third quarter 2006 through the first quarter 2008 to reflect the results of an internal investigation, the price of ArthroCare shares dropped from $40.03 to $23.21 per share. The drop in ArthroCare’s share price caused an immediate loss in shareholder value of more than $400 million.
Applegate faces a maximum prison sentence of five years in prison for each charge. A sentencing date has yet to be scheduled.
David Applegate’s co-defendant John Raffle is scheduled for trial on July 15, 2013. Defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty at trial.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Austin Resident Agency. The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Chief Benjamin D. Singer and Trial Attorney Henry P. Van Dyck of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section. The Department recognizes the substantial assistance of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.