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WASHINGTON, D.C. — Exponential growth like that seen at AutoTrader.com in the last 12 years brings about its own challenges and lessons, and a legal settlement between the company and the Business Software Alliance announced Thursday seems to be indicative of that.

An AutoTrader.com leader said an important lesson was "brought to light" as the company reached a settlement with BSA on claims that there were unlicensed copies of Adobe, Autodesk, Corel and Quest software installed on AutoTrader.com computers.

Under the settlement, AutoTrader.com paid BSA — whose membership includes such companies as Apple and Microsoft — $400,000 and said it would remove any unlicensed software from its computers, get the licenses needed to comply with regulations and pledged to put into place better practices regarding software asset management.

"AutoTrader.com has grown from 10 employees at our founding 12 years ago to more than 2,000 today," stated Bob Hadley of AutoTrader.com. "During that time we have focused on managing the explosive growth of the company and serving the tens of thousands of customers — auto dealers, manufacturers and private sellers — who advertise vehicles for sale on AutoTrader.com and the millions of shoppers searching for cars on our site.

"We believe our employees have the utmost integrity when it comes to these matters, and this audit brought to light the importance of having procedures in place to make sure all software purchases and licenses can be accounted for in accordance with Business Software Alliance policies," he continued.

Apparently, a confidential report on its www.nopiracy.org website tipped off BSA to the alleged unlicensed software use.

Jodie Kelley, BSA's vice president of anti-piracy and general counsel, added: "It is important businesses understand the risks associated with using unauthorized software on any computer. Not only do organizations face possible legal trouble for employing pirated software, there are also tremendous security and economic consequences involved."