Holman Jenkins has been at the forefront of clearing up the cacophony of confusions that pass for commentary on backdating. This morning’s column distinguishes itself in clearing up a great many of the wrong-headed ideas about backdated stock options, and points the finger squarely at the financial press for doing such a poor job of explaining them. But it also makes a point of emphasizing how truly odd it is that one of the foremost defenders of Apple CEO Steve Jobs is Al Gore.
Blessed is the editor who can say to a writer, “Make sense of Subject X for me,” and hope to receive back something more than a distillation of tropes already in the media. Most editors are not so blessed, a factor just now reaching critical mass. On Sunday, a lagging commentator in the New York Times likened backdating to “getting to pick lottery numbers after the winning numbers are drawn.” A confused Washington Post editorial called on Mr. Jobs to reimburse Apple for the compensation he stole.
Against this (who would have thunk it) stands Mr. Gore, yelling stop to the lynch mob. In Apple’s own backyard, the San Jose Mercury News delivered a critic’s delectable complaint that the Gore investigation had “tried to preserve the company’s No. 1 asset” in Mr. Jobs. Isn’t that exactly what a shareholder wants from the Apple board right now? The Apple case is a marvelous example of why corporate governance reformers do shareholders no favor even as they expand their own bailiwicks by making governance reform a never-ending end in itself. Indeed, Mr. Gore deserves credit for putting himself in the line of fire at all. And worse is surely coming: Mr. Jobs is starting to face insinuations of insider trading for stock sales after the first backdating cases broke but before Apple was implicated.
Oh, and yeah, somewhere in there he makes a nice mention of DealBreaker‘s coverage. So, you know, “big ups” to the Holman.
Apple’s Gore [Wall Street Journal]