The U.S. Attorney in San Francisco has begun a criminal probe into stock-options backdating at Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), the San Jose Mercury News reported on Saturday. (A variety of other publications have picked up on the story now as well.)
According to the Merc story, the grants the government is investigating include a 7.5 million option grant in 2001 to CEO Steve Jobs that the story asserts was “among the largest in corporate history.”
The bottom line here is this: if Steve Jobs can keep his job, Apple investors will forget about the options probe and re-focus on iPhones and iPods and Macs. If Jobs actually gets ensnared in a legal mess and has to step down, the stock is going to crumble.