Jobs faces further questions on options

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The Independent Online

Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, faces further questions in the options scandal that is rocking Wall Street after it was revealed two trusted lieutenants at his film studio Pixar were granted share options at an extraordinarily fortuitous moment.

Apple is already being investigated over suggestions it improperly dated options for Mr Jobs and others to maximise their value to the executives. And now it has emerged John Lasseter, the creative director behind Toy Story and Monsters Inc, and Pixar's president Edwin Catmull, were granted options just as Pixar shares hit a low point.

Because options allow holders to buy shares at a fixed price, many years into the future, the lower the price when they are granted, the more lucrative they will be. The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating 80 companies amid suggestions that executives routinely and illegally backdated the options to a low point in the shares.

Disney, which bought Pixar from Mr Jobs last year and gave him a powerful seat on its board, has not said it is being investigated and there is no evidence that the timing of grants to Mr Lasseter and Mr Catmull were anything more than a coincidence.

The grant of 2 million options to Mr Lasseter was Pixar's largest during its time as a public company and was dated 6 December 2000, the lowest point Pixar shares hit that year. Allowing for adjustments after the Disney acquisition, the remainder are now worth about $62m (£32m). Mr Catmull was granted options dated on the same day.

The SEC is investigating how some companies appeared to use backdated options to inflate remuneration for executives. Apple said last week it was delaying its results because "irregularities" in the way it granted options meant its accounts for the past three years could no longer be reliable. One of the grants at issue was a 2000 grant to Mr Jobs.