DOJ Drops Criminal Probe Into Apple Options

The U.S. Justice Department has decided not to file charges against Apple leader Steve Jobs and other current or former executives in a probe of backdated employee stock options, lawyers for the people targeted in the investigation said on Wednesday.

Apple, the fast-growing consumer electronics company, is one of more than 200 mostly high-tech companies that have been investigated for irregularities over their accounting for stock options awarded to employees over the past decade or so.

Three of the attorneys in the case told Reuters that the Justice Department had decided to drop its criminal inquiry.

A spokesman for Apple declined to comment.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission had launched an investigation for backdating options grants to Jobs, the company’s co-founder and chief executive. Apple’s own probe found no wrongdoing by Jobs or current management.

The SEC later cleared the company after it cooperated with the investigation, but the agency sued former Apple Chief Financial Officer Fred Anderson and former General Counsel Nancy Heinen last year.

“There was never any basis to bring charges against Nancy, so it is no surprise that the government reached this conclusion,” Cristina Arguedas, Heinen’s lawyer, said of the DOJ’s decision. “We were always confident that after a full and fair review of the facts there could be no other outcome.”

The SEC case relies on testimony from a lower-ranking former Apple lawyer, Wendy Howell, who testified she was asked by Heinen to falsify minutes of meetings of Apple’s board of directors that never took place.

Thomas Carlucci, Howell’s lawyer, said that she would not be charged either by the DOJ.

The DOJ’s decision was first reported by the Wall Street Journal, which cited people familiar with the case.

The U.S. attorney’s office in San Francisco, which was handling the case, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

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