New York: Martha Stewart, the American lifestyle guru, is to pay the maximum possible fine of $195,000 to settle with the U.S. financial watchdog over an insider trading scandal that landed her in a West Virginia prison for five months in 2004. In a final humiliation, the Securities and Exchange Commission is to ban the disgraced celebrity homemaker from serving as a company director for five years and will impose strict conditions preventing her from getting involved in the finances of her own business empire, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. The agreed resolution, which is subject to court approval, amounts to a U-turn for Ms Stewart who vowed to fight the case, claiming she had done nothing wrong. The penalty for Ms Stewart amounts to three times the losses she avoided through her sale in shares of a biotechnology company, ImClone. She offloaded the stock a day before medical regulators gave a red light to a cancer drug developed by ImClone, sending the shares down 16 per cent in December 2001.

- Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006