Pension fund takes the lead against Apple

Steve Jobs

KAI RYSSDAL: The only time most of us see Apple CEO Steve Jobs, he's on a stage someplace demonstrating the company's latest gadget.

Federal investigators were more up close and personal last week. Bloomberg and the San Francisco Chronicle are reporting Jobs has been questioned about Apple's stock option problems.

The company says Jobs did nothing wrong in the backdating scandal. And so far shareholders, have taken the company at its word. Apple was up almost 1.2 percent today.

But one big institutional shareholder's not quite so happy. Marketplace's Alisa Roth has more now from New York.


ALISA ROTH: The New York City Employees' Retirement System manages more than $89 billion of assets for more than 200,000 municipal employees. That includes around a million shares of Apple, worth about $87 million.

The pension fund said today that it'll serve as lead plaintiff in a class action suit filed against Apple last August. It's a role institutional investors are taking on more often these days. And it's not just about getting back money lost to mismanagement or other funny business.

A 1995 law gives institutional investors more clout in class action suits, partly because they are usually the biggest shareholders, and therefore the biggest losers.

Amy Borrus is with the Council of Institutional Investors.

AMY BORRUS: If the plaintiffs are successful, it sends a message. The outcome can be a shot across the bow of managements across the country.

Institutional investors are also using their clout in other ways.

Adam Savett works on securities class action suits at research firm Institutional Shareholder Services.

ADAM SAVETT: As the number of institutional investors serving as lead plaintiffs has increased, the average settlement amount has correspondingly gone up.

But, Savett says, lawsuits aren't the only way institutional investors make themselves heard, either.

SAVETT: They regularly comment to the SEC on proposed rules and they regularly lobby Congress, both on an individual basis and sort of through different trade organizations.

Apple's one of more than 150 companies being investigated for improper backdating of stock options.

In New York, I'm Alisa Roth for Marketplace.

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