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Prominent media measurement firm settles SEC charges

Media measurement and analytics firm Comscore, widely used by sports leagues and media entities over the past 15 years to measure their digital reach, has settled fraud charges with the US Securities & Exchange Commission and will pay a $5m (€4.6m) penalty.

Serge Matta, Comscore’s former chief executive, will also pay $700,000 and return $2.1m in pay and stock sale proceeds back to the company, and has been banned from from serving as an officer or director of a US public company for the next decade.

Matta and Comscore did not admit or deny the SEC charges. But the SEC complaint alleged that Comscore fraudulently inflated its revenue by $50m between 2014 and 2016, in turn beating Wall Street analyst projections for seven quarters. The SEC also claims that Comscore inflated the number of customers it had in public statements.

“As the SEC orders find, Comscore and its former CEO manipulated the accounting for non-monetary and other transactions in an effort to chase revenue targets and deceive investors about the performance of Comscore’s business,” said Melissa Hodgman, associate director in the SEC’s enforcement division.

Monthly reports on digital reach on online and mobile platforms issued by Comscore have been widely followed in the sports industry, with heavily-trafficked portals such as ESPN and CBS Sports ranking as some of the most visited in the US, regardless of type or genre.

In a lengthy statement, Comscore said it has implemented numerous remedial efforts, including new management, new internal control procedures, and a new compliance management system.

“With this matter now resolved, Comscore remains focused on its new phase of growth in order to drive profits and maximize shareholder value,” said Dale Fuller, interim chief executive.