The U.S. Justice Department has ended its two-year criminal probe of backdated stock options at Apple and has decided not to file charges against current and former executives, including CEO Steve Jobs, according to a report Thursday in The Wall Street Journal.
Apple and the Justice Department declined to comment, but attorneys for two subjects of the probe told the newspaper that they had been notified that the investigation had concluded
"We were always confident that after a full and fair review of the facts, there could be no other outcome," Cris Arguedas, a lawyer for former Apple general counsel Nancy Heinen, told the newspaper.
Apple has admitted that the company backdated certain option grants, including two awarded to Jobs, in order to take advantage of more favorable exercise prices for those grants. Apple has maintained that while Jobs was aware that the options were backdated, he was not aware of the accounting implications of the practice.
This practice isn't illegal, so long as it's disclosed, but dozens of companies failed to do so in the early part of this decade--including CNET Networks, publisher of News.com.
Heinen and former CFO Fred Anderson became public scapegoats for Apple's backdating scandal. Anderson settled his case with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2007, but fired back at Jobs with a press release stating he had in fact informed Jobs of the implications. Apple's board of directors absolved Jobs of any wrongdoing after an internal investigation.
However, Apple isn't free of the backdating headache yet. A shareholder lawsuit filed last month in federal court in San Jose alleges that several executives and directors of Apple committed securities fraud for failing to disclose the company's practice of backdating certain stock option grants in the early part of this decade.