December 29, 2006 5:36 AM PST

Apple takes $84 million charge, defends Jobs

Apple Computer released new information about its allocation of stock options on Friday, defending Chief Executive Steve Jobs following speculation that a key document had been forged.

In its delayed annual report, published early on Friday, Apple said it would restate its financial results for the last three years and also take a charge of $84 million.

Apple also said that while Jobs was "aware (of) or recommended the selection of some favorable grant dates, he did not receive or financially benefit from these grants or appreciate the accounting implications."

"The special committee, its independent counsel and forensic accountants have performed an exhaustive investigation of Apple's stock option-granting practices," former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, chair of the special committee, and Jerome York, chairman of Apple's Audit and Finance Committee, said in a joint statement. "The board of directors is confident that the company has corrected the problems that led to the restatement, and it has complete confidence in Steve Jobs and the senior management team."

Earlier this week, legal Web site Law.com claimed that federal prosecutors were looking closely at "apparently falsified" stock option documents. Other reports claimed that chief executive Steve Jobs had received a grant of 7.5 million share options in 2001 without the required approval from the full Apple board and that documents were subsequently drawn up to suggest that the board had approved them.

The allegations have sparked concern that Jobs could be forced to resign, robbing Apple of its visionary leader. Apple's stock price has dropped about 5 percent this week, but it rose by almost 3 percent following Friday's announcement.

Earlier this year, one of Apple's former chief financial officers quit the company's board of directors after the internal probe found evidence of some irregularities in stock option allocation.

Almost 200 technology companies have been caught up in the options scandal--including News.com publisher CNET Networks--and have been forced to investigate whether stock grants were backdated, a practice in which the grant date of an option is moved to coincide with a low point in the value of a company's shares.

Last week, Juniper Networks admitted that it would have to take a $900 million charge, while civil and criminal charges have been filed against several former executives of storage vendor Brocade Systems.

Graeme Wearden of ZDNet UK reported from London.

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stock option, Steve Jobs, Apple Computer, allocation, CEO

 

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