Disney Inquiry on Pixar Grants Finds No Misconduct by Jobs
The Walt Disney Company, concluding an internal investigation, cleared Steven P. Jobs yesterday of any misconduct in issuing backdated stock options at Pixar, the computer animation studio that Disney bought last year.
A brief statement by John E. Pepper Jr., Disney’s chairman, did not mention Mr. Jobs by name. But the statement said that “while options were backdated at Pixar prior to the acquisition, no one currently associated” with Disney was involved in “any intentional or deliberate acts of misconduct.”
Mr. Jobs, the former chairman and chief executive of Pixar, is now a Disney director and the media company’s largest shareholder, after Disney paid more than $8 billion last year for Pixar.
Disney said it would pass along the results of its inquiry to the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which are also examining the backdated options grants at Pixar.
The options awards being scrutinized include a particularly profitable grant made to John Lasseter, a director, screenwriter and the leader of the creative team at Pixar. As part of a contract agreement signed in March 2001, Mr. Lasseter received a million stock options.
But the options were priced at the level of Pixar’s share price more than three months earlier, in December, at the bottom of a long slide. By the time the employment contract was signed in 2001, Pixar’s shares had already climbed more than 20 percent from the December low.
Mr. Jobs signed the employment contract, but what role, if any, he played in negotiating the contract has not been disclosed.
Executives who are no longer associated with Pixar include Ann Mather, who was the chief financial officer from 1999 to 2004. Ms. Mather, who is now a director at Google, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Mr. Jobs, who is also chief executive of Apple, was investigated last year by Apple in connection with large stock option grants he received in 2000 and 2001. That inquiry concluded that Mr. Jobs was not responsible for any improper backdating. But the internal investigation, Apple said, did raise “serious questions” about the actions of two former company officers, believed to be a former chief financial officer and a former general counsel, who were involved in the accounting and reporting of stock options.
Apple and Pixar are two of the best-known companies to be entangled in backdating problems, and Mr. Jobs is the most prominent business leader to be pulled into the inquiries to date.