Apple's Jobs questioned by U.S. authorities: reports

Wednesday, January 24, 2007; 12:47 AM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Apple Inc. (AAPL.O) Chief Executive Steve Jobs has been questioned by U.S. investigators about stock options backdating at the company, according to several reports citing unidentified lawyers.

The company behind the popular iPod digital media player is under investigation by federal authorities for its past option-grant practices, according to media reports.

Jobs was questioned by federal investigators in San Francisco last week, according to reports by the San Francisco Chronicle and Bloomberg, citing unidentified legal sources.

Jobs' attorney, Mark Pomerantz, declined to comment on the reports. Apple spokesman Steve Dowling also declined to comment, but repeated prior company statements that "we have voluntarily and proactively provided all details."

Apple has said it has provided the details of its own internal review and independent investigation to the SEC and the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Spokesmen for the U.S. Attorney's Office in San Francisco and the SEC also declined to comment.

Apple said in December it would take an $84 million charge for misdating more than 6,400 options. It said an internal review found two questionable options awarded to Jobs, but found no wrongdoing by current management, including the CEO.

The meeting with authorities was first reported on January 19 by The Recorder, a legal newspaper in San Francisco.

Chris Steskal, the lead attorney in the Justice Department's investigation, left in January to join law firm Fenwick & West LLP as a partner, according to the firm's Web site.

Apple is among the more than 160 companies that are under government investigation or conducting internal probes into past stock options award practices.

Stock options represent the right to buy company shares at a set price. Some companies are accused of backdating grant dates to days when the share price was lower, giving the recipient the opportunity to collect extra profit.

Backdating is not in itself illegal, but needs to be properly accounted for and disclosed.

Apple shares fell $1.09 to close at $85.70 on Nasdaq.

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