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Steve Jobs Stock Options Criminal Investigation Dropped

The Justice Department report also indirectly exonerates a blue ribbon Apple committee that had cleared Jobs of any wrongdoing back in 2006.
On the eve of the launch of their new generation of iconic iPhones, Apple and its equally iconic co-founder, chairman, and CEO Steve Jobs have dodged a legal bullet according to reports that the U.S. Justice Department has closed its criminal investigation of the firm's backdated stock options practices.

While no individuals were criminally charged and all Apple employees and former parties proclaimed their innocence, Jobs, the company, and several individuals still must face civil suits that maintain the awarding of some options was improper.

The report that no criminal charges would be filed by the Justice Department was carried in Thursday's editions of The Wall Street Journal.

The report also indirectly exonerates a blue ribbon Apple committee that had cleared Jobs of any wrongdoing back in 2006. Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore and Jerome York, chairman of the company's audit and finance committee, served on the committee that examined the awarding of options over several previous years beginning in 1997.

The dropping of any criminal charges will likely make it more difficult for civil suits to proceed against Apple. Generally, an aggressive criminal prosecution can turn up material that can be easily used in civil cases.

Two weeks ago, several Apple officers and directors including Jobs, former Apple former financial officer Fred D. Anderson and former general counsel Nancy R. Heinen were sued for securities fraud in a class-action suit. The suit was filed in U.S District Court in San Jose, California.

Like other suits against Apple, the litigation focuses on potential gains that could be made by options recipients who received options grants alleged to take advantage of the movement of prices of Apple stock.

As sources for its story, The Wall Street Journal cited "people familiar with the case" and said Apple and U.S. prosecutors declined to comment. Lawyers representing some of the parties involved in the awarding of Apple options, however, said they had been told the criminal inquiry had ended.

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