Report: Feds Probing Apple's Stock Options Grant to Steve Jobs

Federal investigators are actively probing the circumstances behind a stock-option grant to Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs that carried a false October 2001 date, The Wall Street Journal reported in Friday's editions.

On Dec. 29, Apple said its own investigation had cleared its charismatic leader and the rest of its current management of misconduct involving stock option grants. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney's Office have yet to publicly comment on whether they are investigating the matter.

Apple acknowledged in its SEC filing the backdating of thousands of option grants and restated past earnings due to the results of its probe of options practices.

The Journal, citing unidentified people familiar with the matter, said Friday that federal investigators are focusing on grants to Jobs for 7.5 million options that were finalized in December 2001.

Shares of Apple (AAPL) fell $2.10, or 2.2 percent, to $93.70 in Friday morning trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market.

When a stock option grant date in 2001 was pegged to one with a lower exercise price, Jobs technically could have received an extra $22 million in profits, according to Apple's SEC report. Jobs never realized those gains because he later gave up that grant before exercising the shares.

On Friday, the Journal said the false documentation was created by an Apple attorney named Wendy Howell. It said records were improperly created to claim that the grant was approved at a special board meeting that month, but no board meeting took place then. The newspaper said Apple dismissed Howell last month.

The Journal said investigators with the SEC working with federal prosecutors want to question Howell but have been unable to do so.

It said a decision on whether to bring criminal charges in the Apple case isn't expected for months.

A spokesman for Apple declined to comment to the Journal on the report.