During the 16-month period between 2000 and 2001, Drexler and the rest of Apple's board essentially acted as the company's compensation committee. This would call into question Jobs' independence from Drexler under current marketplace rules.

Moreover, from the time Jobs rejoined Apple until August 2001, the board of directors had no nominating committee, meaning that no formal process independent of Jobs existed to nominate and consider new board candidates.

Not only did Drexler join the board during that time period, so did Arthur Levinson, the CEO of Genentech ( GENE). (A Genentech representative said that Levinson wasn't available for comment.)

Such ties and process problems are reason to question the independence of Apple's board at the time, says the CII's Ellsworth. And the lack of an independent board is a red flag that can signal other trouble, she said.

Referring to the wider scandal involving companies that are deceptively manipulating the grant dates and strike prices of stock options, Ellsworth says, "We're going to hear a lot more about the options backdating and cozy boards."

Apple finished trading Wednesday down $1.45, or 2%, at $70.03.

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