Apple to Delay Filing Annual Report

Apple Computer  became the latest tech company to file an IOU with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The company said in an SEC filing today that it will delay filing an annual report, and will restate past earnings following an internal probe into the company’s stock-option practices.

Apple said it must restate its historical financial statements to record non-cash charges for compensation expenses relating to past stock option grants, according to the filing.

Apple is still determining the time period and amount of the restated results. As a result, Apple missed the Dec. 14 deadline for filing its Form 10-K.

Instead, the report covering the fiscal year ending Sept. 31 will be filed in a month, Apple said.

Earlier this year, Apple revealed it had created a special committee to investigate stock option grant problems and it would miss the filing date for its second quarter financial report.

In October, that investigation hinted the company might need to restate finances. The probe found 15 dates between 1997 and 2000 appeared to include grant dates that preceded the grant’s approval.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs became involved in the stock option probe after the investigation reported Jobs knew in “a few instances” that favorable grant dates were picked. Jobs apologized to shareholders, characterizing the errors as “completely out of character for Apple.”

Fred Anderson, Apple’s CFO from 1994 to 2004, resigned from the board of directors, following the investigation.

Apple could find itself in a courtroom, one business ethics attorney argues.

“These companies haven’t been honest and forthright,” said Jerry Reisman, a partner in the Garden City, N.Y., firm of Reisman, Peirez and Reisman.

Reisman sees the potential for class-action lawsuits by Wall Street investors who rely on accurate financial data.

In related events, Dell  also said it would again delayed filing its third-quarter data as investigations into its financial statements continue by the SEC and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Apple, Dell and other companies caught in the stock option scandal can only turn things around by telling the truth, Reisman said.

“Otherwise, the companies will remain under a cloud of suspicion,” according to Reisman.

Apple stock fell 83 cents on the news, trading this afternoon at $87.72.

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