They say that all good things must come to an end. Well, the bad things do, too. Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL) has completed the rather lengthy review of historical stock options grants, restated its financials accordingly (see our roundups of the third and fourth quarters), and cleared the table so the company can get back to business.
Apple didn't go entirely unscathed from this episode, mind you. Former CFO Fred Anderson has resigned from the board, and the company is still under investigation by the Justice Department. But as long as CEO Steve Jobs, the company's unquestionable heart and soul, remains at the helm, Apple will be fine. And his hands look pretty clean when all is said and done, having rescinded most of his own backdated options long before this ruckus broke out.
As you probably know by now, Apple is far from alone in this predicament. New cases are still popping up, like the review just launched at medical device maker Biomet (NASDAQ:BMET). Other investigations launched in the sumer or spring are still ongoing in companies like ceramics specialist Ceradyne (NASDAQ:CRDN) or semiconductor maker Marvell Technology (NASDAQ:MRVL).
And the fallout can be severe. Home Depot (NYSE:HD) found evidence of routine backdating for 20 years, which will result in at least $200 million worth of charges, and the legal queries are still happening there. Computer memory designer Rambus (NASDAQ:RMBS) matched Home Depot's $200 million bag of pain, though it's a much smaller company with a corporate history shorter than the hardware retailer's backdating habit. The company's former CEO has resigned from the board of directors as a result of these proceedings. Communications chip maker Broadcom (NASDAQ:BRCM) is in much the same boat as Apple, with delayed filings and substantial charges yet to come, along with a departed CFO.
Apple's special committee, headed by board member and former Vice President Al Gore, sloughed through 42,077 grant events on 259 dates, covering the period from October 1996 to January 2003. A few earlier dates were thrown in too, just to make sure that nothing untoward was going on in the distant past. This process took about six months, or 26,500 person hours, according to Apple's statement. That's a full-time job for a staff of about 26 people, by my reckoning.
All of that paperwork found faulty grants amounting to expense adjustments of $84 million over a seven-year period. The $4 million charge to 2006 earnings was taken in the fourth quarter, "due to its insignificance."
The arrogant tone of that statement aside, it's a relief to finally have this mess in Apple's rear view mirror. We'll get back to timely and complete earnings releases when the first quarterly report of fiscal 2007 comes due in a couple of weeks, and we can focus on cash flow and revenues rather than backdating and restatements.
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