After being put on guard at his company's shareholders meeting, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs fired back with a defense of his controversial stock options.
Brandon Reese, a shareholder working on behalf of the AFL-CIO union federation was the most eager to grill Jobs on the matter, firing off a string of questions about the many elements surrounding the now-ended stock options scandal at Apple.
"What did you know and when did you know it?," the union spokesman asked.
Rather than answer the question directly, however, Jobs instead pointed to the SEC exoneration issued late last month — at one point deliberately re-reading the government body's statement to underscore his view that the firm's cooperation spoke for itself. The implication that there could be more to the story was rejected as irrelevant.
"Unless you think there's a conspiracy with the SEC too, I don't know what to say," Jobs replied.
The CEO also dismissed suggestions that he should compensate his company for the questionable profits he made from his late 2001 stock options. He took care to note that one grant he received in October of 2001 had in fact been approved in August, when shares were significantly lower and ultimately shortchanged him on potential gains. "I didn't ask the company to pay me back," he said.
Apple has already dealt with an $84 million options expense late in 2006 to make amends for questionable grants handed out between 1997 and 2002.
Jobs was further keen to correct notions of a bitter feud between himself and former CFO Fred Anderson in the wake of Apple's official statement. He rebuffed the departed executive for his criticisms regarding the financial controversy. "Fred Anderson is an awfully good guy," said Jobs. "I thought his comments were a little wrong."
While those investors posing the questions were seldom pleased with the response from Jobs, the Apple co-founder's charisma appeared to have the intended effect of pleasing most of the investors gathered at the company's Cupertino-based campus.
At points during the meeting, Jobs even triggered laughter uncharacteristic of the normally sober occasions. He drew a particularly warm response when deflecting a Teamsters Union agent's question about how Apple linked executive pay and performance, referring to his now legendary $1 annual salary.
"I get 50 cents a year for showing up," he quipped. "And the other 50 cents is based on my performance."