NEW YORK (Reuters) -Federal authorities are investigating a backdated stock-option grant awarded to Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs that carried a false October 2001 date, the Wall Street Journal said on Friday.
Apple’s shares fell 2 percent in early trading as the report raised new concerns over potential legal risks to the company. Apple shares had surged to an all-time high earlier this week with the unveiling of the hotly anticipated iPhone multimedia device earlier this week.
Apple said last month that a stock options grant for Jobs was improperly recorded as being approved at a special board meeting on October 19, 2001. “Such a special board meeting did not occur,” Apple said in a filing on December 29.
The false dating increased the value of the grant of 7.5 million options to Jobs, and Apple said it had to take a $20 million charge as a result.
On Friday, the Journal cited people familiar with the issue as saying the false documentation was created by Apple attorney Wendy Howell, whom the company dismissed last month.
Howell contends that Apple’s general counsel at the time, Nancy Heinen, instructed her to create the false documentation, the Journal cited sources as saying.
While at Apple, “Ms. Howell acted as instructed by Apple management and with the company’s best interest being paramount,” the Journal quoted Howell’s attorney, Thomas Carlucci, as saying.
Carlucci and an Apple spokesman were not immediately available for comment. Howell could not be reached.
Heinen’s attorney, Cristina Arguedas, could not be reached for comment.
Apple’s board had given Jobs a vote of confidence last month, even as the company said it would take an $84 million charge for misdating more than 6,400 stock options between 1997 and 2002.
The company had said that after an internal investigation, it found Jobs and other managers recommended or were aware of certain inaccurate option dates, but did not financially benefit from those grants.
Jobs is viewed by Wall Street as the driving force behind Apple’s turnaround in recent years with the launch of the wildly successful iPod music players, a reinvigorated line of Mac computers and the eagerly awaited iPhone that begins shipping in June.
Investors had been relieved by the disclosures, sending Apple’s shares up 5 percent as Jobs appeared to be untainted by the options scandal that had brought down executives at other technology companies last year.
The misdated options included two questionable grants to Jobs — dated January 12, 2000, for 10 million shares, and October 19, 2001, for 7.5 million shares. Both of those grants were never exercised and were canceled in March 2003, Apple said.
Apple is among the best known of more than 160 companies caught up in the stock options scandal that has ravaged the technology industry amid inquiries into whether grant dates of stock options were manipulated to benefit executives.
Cupertino, California-based Apple’s shares fell to $93.80 on the Nasdaq from their previous close of $95.80.