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SEC launches UnitedHealth options probe


MINNETONKA, Minn.—The Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a formal investigation into UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s stock options practices, the insurer said in a regulatory filing.

Minnetonka, Minn.-based UnitedHealth--which came under fire earlier this year as part of broad probes by authorities into companies' stock option grant programs--in April 2006 reported that it had received an informal inquiry from the SEC over its options. The company was served the formal order of investigation from the federal agency on Dec. 19, UnitedHealth said in the Tuesday filing.

UnitedHealth said it is continuing to cooperate with the SEC's investigation of this matter.

In October, UnitedHealth's chairman and chief executive, Dr. William W. McGuire, stepped down in the wake of an outside review that found evidence of backdating at the company during his tenure.

Earlier this month, the company upped its estimated impact of earnings restatements stemming from the options probes to as much as $1.7 billion from a previous estimate of $286 million.