Thursday, May 25, 2006

MARTHA, PART TWO: A CIVIL ACTION --
A year after her release from prison, her carefully executed makeover complete, Martha Stewart must now confront again the insider trading accusations that turned her world upside down.

The three-year-old civil case against her is resuming. Contesting the Securities and Exchange Commission accusations, as opposed to a negotiated settlement, would help give Ms. Stewart the opportunity to not only clear her name but also to win back her title as chairwoman and chief executive of the company she founded, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.

If she loses, the burden will not be onerous. She could certainly afford any financial penalty and while she no longer serves on the board, her current role as editorial director gives her considerable influence.

All the same, a trial of the S.E.C. lawsuit could be another embarrassing blow not only to Ms. Stewart's image but to the fortunes of her company.