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Last Updated: Friday, 30 June 2006, 06:44 GMT 07:44 UK
Stock option trouble hits Apple
Apple logo  reflected in a window
Apple is one of many US firms with stock option "irregularities"
Apple Computer has announced it has found "irregularities" in the way it has issued stock options to some of its staff, including founder Steve Jobs.

It said it had asked an independent lawyer to investigate, and has notified US financial watchdog, the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Apple is one of many US firms to admit to mishandling stock option schemes.

Some are suspected of rigging stock options so that recipients are ensured of earning bigger windfalls.

In a practice known as "backdating", staff are given options to buy shares at a cheaper price than the current market price by making it appear that the transaction took place at an earlier date when the shares were valued lower.

Stock options increase in value as the market price of a company's shares rises above the "exercise" price at which the employee has the right to buy them.

Backdating the options to a time at which the share price was historically low can provide a bigger profit.

Backdating can be illegal if the process is not disclosed to shareholders and can result in regulators imposing fraud charges.

Apple did not say whether the irregularities it referred to involved backdating.

The options in question were issued between 1997 and 2001, and include a batch that were given to Mr Jobs, although he later cancelled them without receiving any financial benefit.

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