With December 29th and Apple Computeris scheduled financial report filing with the SEC only a day away, concerns are being raised over CEO Steve Jobsi involvement in the companyis stock option grant backdating problems. Many of those concerns stem from an already disclosed options grant issued to Mr. Jobs - a grant that he later surrendered without receiving any financial gain.
Apple went public in June with information it uncovered during an independent internal investigation about irregularities in stock options grants issued between 1997 and 2001. Several instances were discovered, but right now many eyes are focused on the one grant issued to Mr. Jobs.
The biggest concern for many is that Mr. Jobs will be held criminally liable for that option grant. The likelihood of that happening, however, appears to be slim, according to American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu.
"In our proprietary analysis, we believe the key point is that even in the worst case scenario where Apple is found guilty of granting options improperly, we do not believe Steve Jobs is liable," he said. "The reason being the compensation committee at Apple is run by an independent board who are not employees of Apple."
The independent investigation concluded that there was no wrong doing by Appleis current management team, but did raise concerns about two unnamed former officers.
News that surfaced on Wednesday indicated that Mr. Jobs has retained his own legal team to represent him in the backdating investigation. That news led many to believe that Mr. Jobs was directly involved in improperly issued stock option grants.
Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster thinks those concerns are unwarranted. He speculates that Mr. Jobs was not involved in stock options backdating because "Appleis internal investigation found no involvement by any current officers, and... we do not believe Jobs had a general interest in compensation matters, let alone an interest in falsifying documents related to compensation."
The level of involvement of any of Appleis officers or executives remains to be seen. But when Apple submits its SEC filings on Friday, we will likely get a better picture of the extent of the companyis improperly filed backdated grants as well as who was actually involved.
Apple stock is currently trading in the pre-market at $78.80, down 2.74 (3.34%).