Yet another company has cleared Steve Jobs of any wrong-doing in the backdating of stock options that occurred while he was hanging around. Pixar, which is owned by Disney, issued a statement declaring that "no one now associated with Disney committed 'any intentional or deliberate acts of misconduct,'" according to the Wall Street Journal. Since Jobs is now a director at Disney, this is pretty much meant to clear his name.
Roger Parloff at Fortune finds this a bit implausible.
The story line at both Apple and Pixar appears to be that Jobs, the notorious micromanager who headed both companies at the time of the backdating, did not understand the legal or accounting ramifications of backdating. Interestingly enough, virtually Jobs's only compensation at either company during this period was coming from the Apple options whose workings he so poorly understood. (During the relevant years, his salary at Apple was famously just $1 per year, while at Pixar it was about $55 per year.)
The thing that puzzles me most is this: If you don't understand the accounting ramifications of backdating, why do it? Why not just issue the options dated as of the actual date you're issuing them, and simply choose whatever strike price you think is appropriate -- even though it may not correspond to the current stock price?
Meanwhile, over at Ideoblog, Larry Ribstein wonders how Jobs' case is different from executives who have been indicted for their role in backdating stock options grants. One possibility:
Of course, if Jobs were charged, and Apple crushed, lots of people might start asking whether this whole corporate crime thing has gone too far.