SEC Won't Let Steve Be
What happened between Apple’s January 5 disclosure of Steve Jobs’s “hormonal imbalance” and its January 14 announcement that the CEO would be taking a six-month leave of absence? That’s the focus of an ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission probe into Steve Jobs’s health, an investigation that seems to, well, be going nowhere.
People familiar with the matter tell Bloomberg that Apple’s handling of the matter remains under scrutiny and that company directors Art Levinson and Bill Campbell had been briefed by Jobs’s doctors on his medical condition at the time of the January disclosures, but little else.
Now, the path from “Steve is suffering from a common bug” to “a hormone imbalance has been robbing Steve of the proteins his body needs to be healthy” to “Steve has undergone a liver transplant” is obviously something of an eyebrow-raiser. But whether it was material to Apple’s business and therefore required disclosure isn’t clear. After all, Apple (AAPL) did just fine while Jobs was on sabbatical; the debut of new Macs, iPods and iPhones is testament to that. Beyond that, there’s this: Apple’s stock posted a 59 percent gain while he was away.
“The issue is not going to be whether they needed to disclose the medical records,” James Cox, a securities law professor at Duke University, told Bloomberg. “It’s going to be whether they monitored the disclosures about his health, in relation to investor expectations that Apple would continue to be led by Steven Jobs….[Apple] did fine. Do you need to say more than, ‘Our CEO has health problems and he’s out on leave?’ The question I think the SEC is looking at is whether it’s material.”