Jobs is Innocent; He Knows Nothing
The board at Apple is pretty sure its CEO, Steve Jobs, didnít do
anything wrong. The SEC isnít quite so convinced. The fate of the iPod
may hang in the balance, and we canít have that, so someone needs to
Krause, am glad to oblige. I know Jobs is innocent because I buy his
excuse. It could easily be mine.
Here is the
problem: A bunch of Apple stock options were backdated to benefit the
executives who received them. In a nutshell, for those who donít
understand stock options, you are given the option of buying a certain
number of company shares for the price of the shares on the day youíre
assigned the option. You wait to see if they go up or down. If they go
up, you can buy them at the old, lower price, then turn around and sell
them at the new, higher price, and you just made a bunch of money. If
they go down, you decline to exercise the option, and you make nothing,
but you lose nothing.
at Apple backdated the stock to a time when the shares were selling even
lower than what the correct date should have reflected, thereby allowing
the execs to buy for less than they should have, and to make a bigger
profit upon resale.
board says, Jobs knew about some of the backdating. But no, he didnít
understand the accounting implications, so he did nothing wrong and is
in the clear.
understand why the SEC is not buying this, because presumably the folks
at the SEC understand the accounting implications of everything. Thatís
why you canít put them in charge of investigations like this. Itís not
fair. They know too much. If you want to do a fair investigation, you
need to put CEOs like me in charge.
typical. Iím supposed to understand the accounting nuances of my
company, but I donít. I look at our balance sheet, see lots of numbers,
and donít think any of them look familiar. I see descriptions and nod my
head for the benefit of my employees Ė because Iím supposed to know what
they mean Ė but I donít.
Ah. Look at
that depreciation. Very good.
I doubt Iím
fooling my CFO, but we have an understanding. He runs the numbers. I
look at the numbers. I donít understand the numbers. He doesnít give me
a hard time for not understanding the numbers. We manage to stay in
business. These are the special understandings between executives that
create the bonds that last a lifetime.
couldnít help but notice something on our last P&L. A new category had
appeared. The category had an interesting name. The name was ďI Donít
told me to put that there,Ē said the executive vice president.
Oh. I see.
Sure. Except . . . what?
But the EVP tried to explain.
ďA bunch of
transactions were not categorized properly. When the CFO saw the
entries, he said I didnít do them right.Ē
what would be the right way to do them?
the new category. Apparently he is going to figure it out, and when he
does, the ďI Donít KnowĒ category will be changed, possibly to ďOh.
That!Ē But in the meantime, something totaling minus-$35,000 is listed
as I Donít Know. That will look good to the bankers.
this have to do with Steve Jobs? Itís part of the secret pact of
understanding shared by all CEOs. None of us understand accounting,
balance sheets, P&L sheets or even expense reports. Even those among us
who are former CFOs are sent to brain-cleansing camps and made to forget
before we assume the corner office.
our own good. CEOs have too much to think about to obsess over the
definition of categories, transactions and numbers that fry the brain
and leave your head spinning. So if failing to understand the accounting
implications means Jobs is innocent, you might as well shut down the
investigation now. The guy didnít know a thing. And he never will.
wouldnít expect the SEC to understand that. Not without
numbers-challenged CEOs like me around to explain it to them.
© 2006 North Star
Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
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