I know this is probably going to trigger a wave of enraged emails from Apple fans — or “Macolytes,” as I like to call them — but I can’t resist writing something about the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of Steve Jobs and the backdating of Apple’s stock options, which Dan Farber of ZDNet wrote about recently. I wrote an earlier post about it here.
In that post, I said that I thought Apple — and Steve Jobs — had been getting a free ride on the whole options thing because the company and its products are so popular, and I still think that (it’s either that or the legendary Jobs “reality distortion field”). As BusinessWeek suggests in this article, Steve Jobs is effectively untouchable. Everyone would much rather talk about how the iTV unit is going to be announced at Macworld.
Of course, it’s possible that everyone is willing to overlook the Apple case because a) they are tired of the whole options-backdating issue, b) they don’t think it’s really that important — or even wrong, as my friend Rob argued in the comments on my previous post — or c) the company has absolved Jobs of any direct liablity, and therefore the whole issue is effectively closed.
That could be. But as far as I can see it, the facts are pretty clear from the WSJ story: Steve knew about the backdating, and while he didn’t benefit from it, he either actively agreed to it or approved it. He also personally benefited from a huge grant that was backdated, although he apparently didn’t know about it.
As a blog called The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs puts it, this is the Hurd defense (named for the CEO of HP), which in a nutshell says “Did illegal activities occur? Yes. Was the current CEO in charge at the time of the illegal activities? Yes. Did the current CEO authorize said activities? Yes. And benefit from them? Yes. Therefore, the CEO is not responsible.”
Does that make sense? Only in Apple-land.