HUDSON, N.H. (AP) _ Top executives of Presstek Inc. have agreed to pay $2.9 million in fines to settle federal regulators' charges they circulated misleading information about the printing company that inflated its stock price, the Securities and Exchange Commission said.

Presstek founder and chairman Robert Howard will pay a civil penalty of $2.7 million while president Robert Verrando will pay $200,000. In agreeing to settle the case, they neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.

The SEC alleged that Howard directed the company to distribute several thousand copies of a newsletter in 1994 and 1995, even though he knew, or should have known, its earnings projections for the company were too high.

The agency also said in the fall of 1995, Presstek did not disclose problems in its relationship with its primary customer, Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG, a large German printing press manufacturer.

The company itself was not fined, but as part of the settlement it agreed to refrain from such violations in the future, the SEC said.

Presstek's stock was among the most volatile on the Nasdaq Stock Market from 1994 to 1996 before it dropped from $200 to $40 a share in May 1996. It now trades in the range of $30 a share. It has been one of the stocks most targeted by short sellers, who bet on a stock's decline by selling borrowed shares in hopes of buying shares later at a lower price to replace them.

Presstek employs about 170 people at its plant in Hudson. It makes a laser system that transfers print and images direct from computer to printing plates.