A recent internal review by Apple concluded chief executive Steve Jobs didn’t do anything wrong even though he knew about the back-dated stock options. The review suggested Jobs didn’t appreciate the full consequences of what he was doing.
However, that doesn’t seem to square with fresh reports suggesting Jobs is strongly aware of the significance of back-dating, and has been for some time. John Heilemann in New York Magazine, reveals Steve Jobs pressured Apple’s board to reprice stock options as early as 1997:
Or so Jobs told Time magazine that August: “To restore morale, Jobs says, he went to the mat with the [Apple] board to lower the price of incentive stock options,” the magazine reported. “When the board members resisted, he pushed for their resignations.”
This revelation follows other troubling evidence that Jobs benefited from repriced options over time. A lawsuit filed last week, alleges, for example that from 1997 to 2004, five of seven grants by Pixar (where Jobs was owner and board member) were recorded at the lowest possible price within the months they were granted, and four of the seven were recorded at the lowest price within the fiscal years.
And at Apple, he exchanged his option for 10 million shares of restricted stock in Apple, netting $300 million in profit on stock sales on March 19, 2006, just a day after the Wall Street Journal first reported evidence of widespread backdating among U.S. corporations, the lawsuit points out.
Finally, even the impartiality of Apple’s internal review has come into question: Members of the special committee that oversaw the investigation — and more broadly, the board itself — have multiple potential conflicts of interest, the Merc points out.
What do VentureBeat readers think? How do you balance the tremendous benefits we get from having Jobs stay at Apple and continue to enrich our lives with things like the iPod (and iPhone, if it lives up to its hype), and the need for justice that lawsuits and — likely further investigations – are clamoring for?
(Illustration by Demetrios Psillos)