Former Apple execs may face legal action over stock options scandal

Two former executives of Apple may face legal action this week by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for their roles in the stock options backdating scandal at the computer company.

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Two former executives of Apple may face legal action this week by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for their roles in the stock options backdating scandal at the computer company.

Nancy Heinen, former general counsel, and Fred Anderson, former chief financial officer for Apple, may be sued for violating SEC regulations over the backdating of options awarded to Apple executives, including chief executive officer Steve Jobs, in 2000 and 2001, the newspaper reported.

In one instance, Heinen allegedly signed off on board minutes showing the directors met in October 2001 to approve an award of 7.5 million stock options to Jobs, even though the options were not actually granted until December 2001. In fact, the October meeting never occurred and was fabricated in documents so Jobs could get the options when Apple's stock price was lower, giving him a larger profit, an internal audit at Apple found.

In another incident, Heinen and Anderson also approved backdating stock options for other executives, including themselves, in early 2001, according a US newspaper. The options were finalised on 31 January but the grant date was set back to 17 January, again, when the price was lower.

Heinen's lawyers could not be reached for comment but told a US newspaper their client was being made the scapegoat and that she was just following orders. Heinen left Apple in May 2006 just as the company launched its own internal board probe of backdating allegations. The report, released in December of last year, said there were some irregularities, but that Jobs was not aware of the accounting implications of approving the backdating.

Lawyers for Anderson could not be reached for comment nor could Mark Fagel, the chief of enforcement in San Francisco for the SEC. The US Attorney's Office in San Francisco, which has been investigating possible criminal charges in the Apple case, declined to comment.

Backdating stock option grant dates is not illegal by itself, but the grants must be properly accounted for and disclosed to shareholders.

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