How much will Michael Dell give back?

Dell (DELL) announced Thursday that it had completed a long-running investigation into its accounting practices. The results seemed relatively benign. It will re-state its earnings over a four-year period by as much as $150 million, a relative pittance for an earnings machine like Dell.

Still, that got me thinking. If Dell was overstating its earnings, even by a few pennies – Dell’s maximum re-statement amounts to 7 cents per share at the current share count – then it likely would have missed earnings projections at some point during that time. That would have zapped Dell’s reputation far sooner as a leader that wowed Wall Street and justified a huge premium in the stock market.

Dell isn’t saying which senior executives were aware of the shenanigans. It’s easy to know, though, which executives cashed in during the good times. According to, Michael Dell sold stock worth $2.5 billion during those years. Kevin Rollins, Dell’s former CEO, who was a senior executive throughout, rang up profits of $43.5 million on the exercise and sale of stock options.

Now that it has been revealed that Dell’s books were screwy, what part of his stock sales, made when the company wasn’t being straight with investors about its performance, do you figure the founder and current CEO intends to return to shareholders?

If your answer is anything greater than zero, I’ve got a great portfolio of sub-prime mortgages I’d like to sell you …

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