Home Capital Markets Apple options mess continues

Apple options mess continues

Last evening, the Financial Times described some compelling developments in the Apple Inc. (APPL:NASDAQ) option backdating investigation.

Try to reconcile this:

“Steve Jobs, chief executive of Apple, was warned in 2001 about the accounting implications of backdating stock options for top executives at the company, Apple’s former chief financial officer said on Tuesday.

The statement by Fred Anderson, who on Tuesday agreed to pay $3.5m to settle backdating charges with the Securities and Exchange Commission, raises fresh questions about the role played by Mr. Jobs in improper backdating at the company.”

With this:

“…the SEC said it would not take any action against Apple itself. The regulator on Tuesday said its decision was due in part to the company’s ”swift, extensive and extraordinary cooperation” in the government’s investigation. However, fraud charges were filed against Nancy Heinen, the company’s former general counsel.

While Tuesday’s events appear to signal that the enforcement agencies do not have evidence to pursue an immediate case against Mr Jobs, his standing as the most prominent executive to be drawn into the options backdating scandal that has engulfed more than 200 US companies has guaranteed close scrutiny of his role.”

When was the last time in recent memory that a corporate scandal led to very serious charges being brought against the CFO and General Counsel, but not against the CEO? Was the guy not showing up to work?

It’s curious that a former Apple CFO pointing fingers isn’t sufficient for the Securities Exchange Commission to proceed against Steve Jobs. Is this fellow somehow less credible than David Radler, for example? Had Conrad Black been a Silicon Valley icon, and not an English Lord, would he be on trial today in Chicago?

MRM

See earlier posts: March 5/07 RIM bruises a few berries; Jan. 23/07 SEC interviews Steve Jobs; and Jan. 15/07 It is always the coverup.

 
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12 Comments  comments 

12 Responses

  1. AT

    what’s next for RIM?

  2. Oh Blah Dee Blah Dah

    When an employee it told to do something by a superior, it is up to the employee to do it with regard to the law, as well as conforming to any corporate proceedure.

    Someone made up the board minutes for a meeting that didn’t occur. Even if Steve Jobs did ask for the options to be backdated, they should have been done with respect to a meeting that actually took place, and not according to a fictitious gathering.

    The CFO and the General Counsel must have known that an actual meeting did not take place, because they would have reviewed that minutes of the meeting, or they would have attended the actual meeting and seen it first hand.

    The CFO is responsible for proper accounting of the options. This was NOT done. The GC is responsible for recording that a meeting actually took place. The meeting was fabricated.

    A superior instructs employees on what result he wants. The employees must respond within the law!

  3. douglasrpreston

    “Had Conrad Black been a Silicon Valley icon, and not an English Lord, would he be on trial today in Chicago?”

    It seems you are not all that familiar with Lord Black’s antics.
    Comparing Black with Steve Jobs is just plain silly.

  4. I read Tom Bower’s book, so I feel like I have a handle on all that went on at Hollinger et al (although Black is suing Bower for libel, etc.).

    The point isn’t that the stuff swirling around the two men is at all the same; the SEC’s lack of anxiety over the accusations against Jobs is inexplicable based upon their acute interest in Black’s alleged bad behaviour.

    Whether the fire is of the one alarm or five alarm type, you still hope the firefighters will care enough to come.

    MRM

  5. douglasrpreston

    Black’s bad behavior started at an early age when he was expelled from college for selling copies of exams to fellow students.
    Thus did his illustrious business career begin.

    The SEC got it right with Conrad Black.

    With regards to Mr. Jobs and the SEC, I’m sure Apple’s cooperation and openness (unlike Hollinger) helped the SEC to determine that there are just two bad apples here! (Heinen & Anderson)

    The Apple Board unanamously agrees.

  6. AT

    The Apple Board has a unanamous interest in protecting Jobs (pun intended)…

  7. “When was the last time in recent memory that a corporate scandal led to very serious charges being brought against the CFO and General Counsel, but not against the CEO?”

    When, in the course of their investigations, the SEC finds the CEO more credible than the CFO and General Counsel. Is it really *that* hard to comprehend?

    “It’s curious that a former Apple CFO pointing fingers isn’t sufficient for the Securities Exchange Commission to proceed against Steve Jobs.”

    You don’t think Anderson had already pointed that finger at Jobs while he was being deposed by the SEC? Anderson’s press release did *not* come as a shock to the SEC.

  8. dd

    No charges against Apple or Jobs. It is inconceivable that actions benefiting both the corporation and the CEO occurred without their intimate involvement. Cooperation might be a mitigation factor but it is not exculpatory. The SEC has gone the way of the FDA

  9. anon

    Heinen’s emails indicate that the options were *forward* dated. If true, there isn’t even the *appearance* of a crime.

  10. Then what did the CFO plead guilty to if there was no wrongdoing?

    As to credibility, it seems unimaginable that the CFO was so lacking in merit that his testimony about the situation would be thrown out over Jobs’.

    After all, had he not been credible enough to, well, be the CFO of Apple?

    MRM

  11. Folks – please get your facts straight.

    “It is inconceivable that actions benefiting both the corporation and the CEO occurred without their intimate involvement.”

    Both Apple and the SEC said that Jobs did not benefit from the backdating.

    “Then what did the CFO plead guilty to if there was no wrongdoing?”

    The CFO did not plead to anything. He didn’t have to – he wasn’t *charged* with anything!

    All Anderson did was agree to a fine and to pay back whatever monies he may have profited from due to the backdating – approx 3.5 million dollars.

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