United Health still footing hefty legal bills on option back-dating…

It’s been a little over three years since the WSJ broke the options-backdating scandal, which among other things, led to the removal of former UnitedHealth (UNH) CEO Charles McGuire. In December 2007, McGuire settled with the SEC and this past December, the SEC settled on several related matters.

But their have been numerous other lawsuits stemming from that messy chapter in United’s history too. And while many have been settled, the legal bills are continuing to pour in, judging by the company’s recent proxy. Last year, for example, the company spent $16.8 million to cover the legal costs of current and former executives and directors. While that’s down from the $23.3 million spent in 2007, together with the money spent in 2006, it makes for nearly $50 million in legal expenses.

As the company notes in its filing, United is required to cover the legal costs for current and former officers and directors under Minnesota state law.

UPDAT: The Am Law Daily has its own interesting take on United’s disclosure and suggests that most of this money has been spent defending McGuire.

On a separate note, our friends at Consumerist are down to the Final Four for the worst company in America. Be sure to cast your vote though it’s hard to imagine AIG not winning this one in a landslide.

And one final note: the SEC is streaming a day-long round-table on short selling. We’ll be listening in for interesting tidbits. Here’s the agenda for today.