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Profit-strapped Symantec pulls employee share scheme

Cunning plan to push top staff out? Firm keeps schtum

Symantec is cancelling an Employee Share Purchase (ESP) programme, angering some workers in the process.

Last week Symantec revealed plans to slash 8 per cent of its workforce (1,000 heads) in response to disappointing enterprise sales. The firm has also cancelled a discounted share purchase worker-loyalty programme as an additional cost-saving measure.

The ditching of the ESP has further knocked morale, according to an affected insider who got in touch with The Register.

Our tipster suggested the move is part of a Machiavellian plan to encourage its top workers to leave in order to reduce redundancy payments [Shouldn't Symantec be encouraging its top performers to stay? – ed.] Here's what our mole had to say:

Symantec today [Tuesday] canceled the employee stock purchase plan when employees were about to buy in at a 52-week low. This will save the company money it had budgeted to sell the stock to employees at the agreed upon discount.

It is anticipated the top performers in the company will be fed up and will move on to other employers. That will reduce the headcount by the expected amount and Symantec will not have to pay any severance packages for involuntary separations.

Symantec's Employee Stock Purchase Plan offers a 15 per cent discount off stock purchasable every six months with up to 10 per cent of gross salary.

In normal circumstances this is free money to subscribed workers, equating to around 1.5 per cent of their salary. Symantec's declining share price makes it less attractive but even so the suspension of the scheme has evidently upset some. It reportedly runs alongside a bonus programme, offering wage boosts of between 5 and 30 per cent.

We say in "normal circumstances" because everything is far from normal at Big Yellow right now.

Symantec is in the middle of an ongoing internal investigation into its accounting practices and executive commentary on historical financial results. The audit has meant that Symantec has not filed its annual report on Form 10-K for fiscal year 2018.

"The Company's financial results and guidance may be subject to change based on the outcome of the Audit Committee investigation," Symantec said as part of a statement on its results.

"At this time, the Company does not anticipate a material adverse impact on its historical financial statements for the third quarter of fiscal year 2018 and prior. As noted above, our fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018 and subsequent periods remain open periods from an accounting perspective, subject to adjustment for material updates."

The Register understands that Symantec won't be issuing shares to workers until it sorts through its books and files its outstanding 10-K returns.

The company has not sent us a publicly usable statement following our calls for comment yesterday evening. ®

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