Securities Law Prof Blog

Editor: Eric C. Chaffee
Univ. of Toledo College of Law

Thursday, August 14, 2008

SEC Settles Backdating Charges Against Former Apple GC

The SEC announced that it settled options backdating charges against Nancy R. Heinen, the former General Counsel of Apple, Inc. As part of the settlement Heinen agreed (without admitting or denying the allegations) to pay $2.2 million in disgorgement, interest and penalties, be barred from serving as an officer or director of any public company for five years, and be suspended from appearing or practicing as an attorney before the Commission for three years.

The SEC charged that Heinen caused Apple to fraudulently backdate two large options grants to senior executives of Apple — a February 2001 grant of 4.8 million options to Apple's Executive Team and a December 2001 grant of 7.5 million options to Apple Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs — and altered company records to conceal the fraud. The complaint alleges that as a result of the backdating Apple underreported its expenses by nearly $40 million.

In the first instance, Apple granted 4.8 million options to six members of its Executive Team (including Heinen) in February 2001. Because the options were in-the-money when granted, Apple was required to report a compensation charge in its publicly-filed financial statements. The Commission alleges that, in order to avoid reporting this expense, Heinen caused Apple to backdate options to January 17, 2001, when Apple's share price was substantially lower. Heinen is also alleged to have directed her staff to prepare documents falsely indicating that Apple's Board had approved the Executive Team grant on January 17. As a result, Apple failed to record approximately $18.9 million in compensation expenses associated with the option grant.

The Commission's complaint also alleged improprieties in connection with a December 2001 grant of 7.5 million options to CEO Steve Jobs. Although the options were in-the-money at that time, Heinen — as with the Executive Team grant — caused Apple to backdate the grant to October 19, 2001, when Apple's share price was lower. As a result, the Commission alleges that Heinen caused Apple to improperly fail to record $20.3 million in compensation expense associated with the in-the-money options grant. The Commission further alleges that Heinen then signed fictitious Board minutes stating that Apple's Board had approved the grant to Jobs on October 19 at a "Special Meeting of the Board of Directors" — a meeting that, in fact, never occurred.

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