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Ties May Bind Apple's CEO to Board

Updated from 2:40 p.m. EDT

Although the role of Apple's (AAPL - Get Report) Steve Jobs in the granting of past stock options is still unknown, the CEO may not have been as removed from the process as some analysts believe.

During the period of the grants which are under investigation, the company's board of directors consisted largely of people handpicked by Jobs -- many of whom had significant ties to him or to Apple.

Apple admitted in late June that it had found "irregularities" in several options grants it made between 1997 and 2001, including at least one made to Jobs.

Since then, the company's backers among the sell-side community have argued that Jobs likely played no role in the grants, in part because Apple's board and compensation committee that oversaw such grants during the said time period were independent.

As previously reported by TheStreet.com, Apple didn't have a compensation committee for a 16-month period between 2000 and 2001. Instead, the board of directors, ostensibly including Jobs, governed such decisions.

What's more, there are serious reasons to question how independent Apple's directors were from Jobs in the 1997 to 2001 time period. Even though many of the directors might be considered independent under even current, stricter marketplace rules, many had significant ties to Jobs or were appointed through a process with little apparent independence from him.

"This is something that goes beyond the letter of any law to the real spirit of the matter" of independence, says Alyssa Ellsworth, managing director of the Council of Institutional Investors, which represents pension funds.

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