If board members are golfing buddies or best friends with CEOs, "they're not going to treat them with the arms-length, director-management relationship that shareowners are looking for."

Still, at least some analysts believe that there's every reason to believe that Apple's directors at the time were in fact independent of Jobs, regardless of whatever ties they may have had to him.

Intuit ( INTU) Chairman William Campbell and Oracle ( ORCL) Chairman Larry Ellison, both of whom joined Apple's board with Jobs in 1997 and served with him throughout the period in question, are "probably the only two people who have no problem standing up to Jobs," says Tim Bajarin, principal analyst at Creative Strategies and a longtime Apple watcher.

Meanwhile, Bajarin describes Jerome York, who served on Apple's board during the same time period, as "the most hard-nosed guy I ever met."

"There's no question in my mind that the board was very independent," says Bajarin. "I don't see anybody on the board that's 'yes people' in any way."

Citing the company's ongoing investigation into its stock grants in the late '90s and early this decade, Apple spokesman Steve Dowling declined to comment on the independence of the company's board during that time.

An Oracle representative declined to comment. Other members of the board from that period did not return calls seeking comment.

If you liked this article you might like

Short-Circuited

Short-Circuited

SEC Launches Inquiry of Electronic Arts Options

SEC Launches Inquiry of Electronic Arts Options

Apple's iTV Intriguing but Not a Core Business

Apple's iTV Intriguing but Not a Core Business

Street Applauds Adobe Systems

Street Applauds Adobe Systems

Adobe Reaffirms Guidance

Adobe Reaffirms Guidance