- A U.S. judge has given final approval to $695 million in settlements to shareholders suing Qwest Communications International Inc for securities fraud.

Shareholders, predominantly pension funds, filed numerous class action lawsuits beginning 2001 when multibillion dollar accounting discrepancies began surfacing.

Judge Robert Blackburn's order approving two settlement agreements was made public on Thursday in U.S. District Court in Denver.

The investors had reached a proposed settlement with Qwest of $400 million in 2005. But payment of that sum was held up by appeals by the company's former chief executive and chief financial officer.

Last August, former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio and former CFO Robert Woodruff agreed to add an extra $5 million from insurance proceeds to the settlement, while Qwest pitched in another $40 million.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also contributed $250 million to the settlement pot, after Qwest paid the commission $250 million to settle a similar securities fraud lawsuit the SEC had filed earlier.

In a separate criminal case, Nacchio was convicted in 2007 on 19 counts of insider trading. He is serving a six-year prison term and was fined $19 million and ordered to forfeit $52 million in stock sales.

(Reporting by Robert Boczkiewicz; Editing by Richard Chang)