Ex-Qwest exec testifies in insider trading trial

Former Qwest CEO Joe Nacchio told managers of the telephone company's key business units to focus on meeting internal business targets despite their concerns they would be unable to achieve the goals he set for them, a former company finance chief testified, according to an Associated Press report.

The Associated Press report said in a separate development, Nacchio's attorneys asked the judge presiding over his insider trading trial to declare a mistrial because of what they called 'prejudicial' testimony from a former Qwest employee who described putting all of her investments into Qwest stock based on Nacchio's promises of revenue growth.

Robin Szeliga, who joined Qwest in 1998 and became chief financial officer in April 2001, told jurors she attended several meetings where Nacchio put a top priority on meeting internal revenue targets, which were higher than those publicly released to investors, the report said.

Szeliga, who is serving two years' probation after pleading guilty to illegally selling stock in 2001, said she met with Nacchio and her boss, then-CFO Robert Woodruff, in late December 2000 or early January 2001 to discuss concerns raised by executives of Qwest's business units, the report said.

Szeliga said Nacchio told her 'he would make the decisions, not me, as to whether the business units had valid concerns.' The meeting occurred about a month before the first trades that Nacchio is accused of improperly making, the report said.

The 57-year-old Nacchio is accused of selling $101 million worth of Qwest stock in 2001 after learning internal information that the Denver-based company was at financial risk, the report further said.