If Jobs is tainted, does Apple lose its shine?

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BOB MOON: The Financial Times has peeled away more of the story involving those backdated stock options that went to Apple Computer chief Steve Jobs. The paper reports he received millions in stock options without proper company approval. Then, someone allegedly forged documents to make it look like they were OK'd.

From the Marketplace Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio, Janet Babin has the latest:


JANET BABIN: The Financial Times said that Steve Jobs got 7.5 million stock options in 2001 without authorization from Apple's board. Even worse, the paper said that later those records were falsified to make it look like there was a company board meeting held, where the options were approved.
GENE MUNSTER: It sounds really bad. But at the end of the day . . . Jobs? There's a 95 percent chance he had nothing to do with this.

Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster. Apple's own investigation back in October also concluded that Jobs was not involved in any wrongdoing.

At least 160 companies have struggled with federal inquiries into the backdating of stock options. Many times companies place blame on one or two errant officers and move on. But Justin Scheck with The Recorder says that's not an option for Apple.

JUSTIN SCHECK: Steve Jobs is behind all of Apple's recent success. This was a banner year for them. And they're not in a position to be able to just drop him and throw him to the prosecutors.

Even if it turns out that Jobs knew about a board meeting that never happened, most analysts believe profits at the company will continue to soar, because consumers are so loyal to the brand.

But Paul Hodgson with The Corporate Library says there's more to this inquiry than iPod sales:

PAUL HODGSON: Economic success cannot be considered in a vacuum. It has to have an ethical . . . there's an ethical standpoint and a moral standpoint.

The company's expected to release more public details about the stock options to the Securities and Exchange Commission tomorrow.

I'm Janet Babin for Marketplace.

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