Apple reveals Jobs’ involvement

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Steve Jobs personally recommended some instances of stock options backdating at Apple, the computer company revealed on Friday, though it continued to stand behind an earlier statement that it had found “no misconduct” by current executives over the affair.

Apple also appeared to back away from an earlier assertion that its chief executive had been unaware of the accounting failures that arose from the backdating, saying instead only that he did not “appreciate the accounting implications” at the time.

News that the Apple chief executive had been more directly involved in the options irregularities than previously disclosed came as the company admitted that a fictitious board meeting had supposedly approved some of Mr Jobs’ own stock options in 2001. The affair, reported earlier this week in the FT, led to Mr Jobs receiving benefits worth $20m that were not disclosed at the time, Apple reported.

Apple’s shares bounced 4.9 per cent on Friday on relief that the company had not uncovered deeper problems.

Apple said it had understated its expenses in previous years by a total of $105m, reflecting 6,428 separate options grants made on 42 dates. Backdating involves setting the exercise price on stock options at an earlier date.

While Apple revealed in a regulatory filing in October that Mr Jobs had been aware of some of these cases, it amended that on Friday to say that he had been “aware or recommended the selection of some favourable grant dates”.

Friday’s statement that Mr Jobs did not “appreciate the accounting implications” of the options backdating, was also a change from its assertion in October that he was “unaware of the accounting implications”. It added he did not “financially benefit” from backdated grants of which he was aware, a change from its earlier statement stating he did not “benefit”.

Apple also detailed benefits that Mr Jobs received from backdating. A grant of 7.5m options, dated October 19 2001, was not finalised until December 18 of that year. In spite of that, approval for the grant was “improperly recorded as occurring at a special board meeting on October 19. Such a board meeting did not occur”, it said.

However, Apple said that the option grant had originally been approved at a board meeting in August, when its share price had been lower. Apple continued to lay the blame on two unnamed former officers of the company.

A lawyer for Fred Anderson, a former chief financial officer who stepped down from Apple’s board at the time of its October announcement, said his client “did not play any day to day role in the granting, reporting and accounting of stock options and he was not involved in any knowing manipulation of the process.”

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