The probe into improperly backdated stock options at Apple Computer could take an interesting turn now that the investigation may have uncovered intentionally falsified documents. According to Law.com, the documents were manipulated to maximize the profit executives receive from option grants.
The faked stock options documents were uncovered during the independent investigation into Appleis option grants by the law firm of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart Oliver & Hedges. Those documents will likely be key evidence should the U.S. government file criminal or civil charges against any Apple executives.
Apple announced in June that the internal investigation uncovered irregularities in several option grants issued between 1997 and 2001. At that time, CEO Steve Jobs commented "Apple is a quality company, and we are proactively and transparently disclosing what we have discovered to the SEC."
In October, the company announced that the investigation did not find any misconduct on the part of the current management team, but noted "serious concerns regarding the actions of two former officers." The report also stated that Mr. Jobs was aware of "a few instances" where favorable grant dates had been selected, but that he was unaware of the accounting implications."
Although the statement said that Mr. Jobs is not suspected of any misconduct, he has hired his own lawyers outside Appleis legal representation.
Apple delayed filing some documents with the SEC pending the outcome of the internal investigation. Those delayed documents, which include some figures for the past few fiscal quarters, are due to the SEC this Friday.
News of the possible falsified documents is hurting Appleis stock today. Currently, Apple is trading at US$78.07, down 3.44 (4.22%).