The US Attorney's Office for the northern district of California has confirmed it has opened an investigation into the backdating of stock options at Apple.
According to Computerworld, the federal action follows an internal investigation by Apple which concluded that although CEO Steve Jobs recommended some backdating of stock options for himself and other Apple employees, he wasn't aware of the accounting implications of those recommendations.
In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last month, Apple disclosed that an October 2001 board meeting at which 7.5-million stock options for Jobs were granted never actually took place and that the options weren't officially granted until December that year.
Backdating the options to October, however, resulted in a $20-million windfall for Jobs because the October share price was lower than December's.
In the same SEC filing, Apple admitted to backdating another 6 400 stock option grants between 1997 and 2002, and said it would take an $84-million after-tax charge against earnings to correct this.
The article goes on to quote Al Gore, former US vice-president and the Apple director in charge of the special internal investigative committee: "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."
Computerworld adds that backdating stock options isn't necessarily illegal, but that the practice must be disclosed and properly accounted for, otherwise it violates federal regulations.