MINNEAPOLIS -- Four former executives of Minnesota-based Starkey Hearing Technologies have pleaded not guilty to charges that they conspired to embezzle more than $20 million from the hearing aid maker and its principal owner.

After Friday's federal court hearing in Minneapolis, attorneys for two of the men accused majority owner Bill Austin of lying to authorities about the disputed transactions.

The company then issued a statement rejecting the idea that Austin was aware of the alleged conspiracy or the alleged cover-up, calling the notion absurd.

Former Starkey President Jerry Ruzicka and three other defendants who pleaded not guilty Friday were released without having to post bail. A fifth defendant has yet to be arraigned.