Here’s an Option for You: 3 to 5 Years, or 6 Months if You Testify

Published on April 29, 2008
by John Paczkowski

Good thing Google seems to be backing away from its informal motto, “Don’t Be Evil.” Otherwise, news that Google board member and former Pixar CFO Ann Mather is facing civil action from the Securities and Exchange Commission for her alleged role in a stock-options backdating scandal at the animation studio would be, you know, totally ironic.

In a regulatory filing yesterday, Google (GOOG) said that Mather was notified last Wednesday that the SEC planned to recommend civil proceedings against her. That recommendation, Google was quick to stress, arises out of her prior employment at Pixar. If Mather, who has served as a member of the Google board of directors since November 2005, approved the improper dating of stock-option grants, she didn’t do it under the search sovereign’s aegis. That said, Google doesn’t seem to think she was involved at all. Said Google CEO Eric Schmidt, “We have the utmost confidence in Ann’s integrity, as well as her abilities as a director, and we continue to support Ann’s re-election to our board of directors.”

That’s a persuasive vote of confidence. Still, the SEC presumably has some reason for recommending civil action against Mather. And Disney (DIS), though it cleared former Pixar CEO Steve Jobs and anyone else “currently associated with Disney” of wrongdoing in connection with the options backdating that occurred at the company, never did offer an explanation of how the backdating came to pass. Perhaps one will be forthcoming from the SEC.

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