Report: Feds looking at Apple stock-option documents

U.S. federal investigators are “looking closely” at stock-option documents that former Apple officials allegedly falsified to boost their own profits, The Recorder legal newspaper reported late Tuesday in its online edition. Revelations regarding past stock-options practices are expected in Apple’s delayed annual report due out Friday.

Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs, who publicly apologized for his actions in an October statement, has hired outside counsel separate from the company’s, the newspaper also reported.

When its three-month-long internal investigation ended in October, Apple said that it “raised serious concerns” about the actions of two former executives related to accounting, recording and reporting stock-option grants. Citing “people with knowledge of Apple’s situation” and “individuals with knowledge of the probe,” The Recorder said that the two are Nancy Heinen, former senior vice president and general counsel, and Fred Anderson, former chief financial officer.

Anderson resigned in October as the company announced the internal investigation’s end. He said then he believed it was in Apple’s best interest for him to resign. Heinen left the company, quietly and without comment, in May. At the time, a company spokesman confirmed she had left, but couldn’t say why.

Tuesday’s news report sent Apple’s (AAPL) share price tumbling Wednesday morning, but as the East Coast midday approached, ground was regained. Even so, the trading price of $78.19 per share remained just over 4 percent below Tuesday’s close.

Apple is among almost 200 companies that have disclosed internal investigations as well as federal probes by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or the U.S. Department of Justice, or both, related to stock-options practices, including backdating of options.

No one at Apple, in Cupertino, Calif., could be reached to comment Wednesday morning. The Recorder quoted a spokesman declining to comment beyond what Apple says in public filings on the matter.

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