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March 12, 2007


Poker expert folds chunk of CA shares


No one knows when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em like Alfonse D'Amato.


The former U.S. senator and long-time expert poker player's knack for well-timed moves is so renowned that no one blinked this month when he took on the role of chairman of the Poker Players Alliance, a group that seeks to carve out an exception for poker in the nation's online gambling prohibition. D'Amato will lobby for the group.

But in a lower-profile transaction, the CA board member and high-power lobbyist last month sold more than 68,000 shares of CA Inc. stock for proceeds of $1.8 million, according to filings. The sell-off represents the bulk of D'Amato's direct CA holdings, which, according to the company's proxy statement, amounted to 100,250 shares as of last July.

While D'Amato has accumulated CA shares over the years, he made his largest personal investment in the stock in the months after the software company acknowledged federal probes of CA in February 2002.

D'Amato spent close to $1million acquiring 50,000 CA shares starting in March of 2002. By the time we caught up with him in an interview in June that year, he said the only thing stopping him from buying more shares was money. "If I had more money, I would" buy more, he said, calling then-chief executive Sanjay Kumar "a man of great integrity." Kumar has since been sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to securities fraud.

The sale last month comes as D'Amato completes his eighth year as a CA director. That's a pivotal year, because CA has eight-year term limits for directors (though a change to the corporate bylaws allows the board to override that limit).

Several shareholder advisory firms last year called on investors to withhold votes for D'Amato, primarily because he was a director during the years former officials later admitted wrongdoing. CA has said D'Amato was one of the directors who helped it settle government charges and recover from financial scandal.

But one observer wasn't so sure his influence has helped.

"If he decided to sell his shares before retiring from the board, I guess that means he's joined the crowd that lacks confidence in his ability to guide the company's recovery," said investment banker Gary Lutin, who runs a CA shareholder forum.

A D'Amato spokeswoman said he was traveling Friday and unavailable for comment.

Concerning his new post at the Poker Players Alliance, D'Amato has beenmore visible. "I have had a passion for poker since my childhood, and for politics almost as long," he said in a press release issued earlier this month. "This new position will allow me to fuse these passions ..."



Copyright Newsday Inc.



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