Before the concerns about Steve Jobs’s health were paramount, another potential problem was suspended above the Apple CEO’s head like the sword above Damocles’s: the little matter of stock-options backdating.
While Jobs was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, former Apple executives Nancy Heinen and Fred Anderson both ended up settling with the government. Now Forbes has gotten ahold of the SEC’s deposition of Jobs, shedding some light on what transpired behind those closed doors.
The 118-page document, which Forbes acquired via the Freedom of Information Act, shows that Jobs asked Apple’s board of directors for an options grant in 2001 because he felt that he wasn’t getting his due appreciation from the company.
“It wasn’t so much about the money,” The Forbes 400 member told an SEC lawyer. “Everybody likes to be recognized by his peers. … I felt that the board wasn’t really doing the same with me.” With all of his prior stock options underwater from the dot-com bust, “I just felt like there is nobody looking out for me here, you know. … So I wanted them to do something, and so we talked about it. … I thought I was doing a pretty good job.”
Aw, Steve. Come on, don’t sell yourself short (since that, too, could be a federal offense): you’ve done a great job. Unfortunately, haggling over how the options should be handled reputedly continued past the deadline for putting in the required paperwork with the SEC. Then there was the matter of minutes created for a fake meeting to justify backdating the grant to the correct date which all the parties involved denied knowledge of. So I guess they, uh, wrote themselves?
Additional grants to other Apple executives were claimed necessary since the people in question—including former CFO Anderson—were apparently being sought by other companies. During his chat with the SEC, Jobs also claimed to know little about finances, saying that he didn’t have a “general understanding” of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (can’t blame you there, Steve; it’s kind of a muddle to me too).
All in all, it seems as though the document offers some insight into the private Jobs, suggesting that he, like many egotists, is inherently a bit insecure at heart. Or, if you’re of a more cynical persuasion, you might speculate that Jobs played the whole thing like the masterful showman that he is.