Does SEC have a role in Jobs' health reports?

Had either Watson suffered a similar calamity at a similar age, neither the press nor the regulators could have let it pass. So we can't let it pass this time, either.

Steve Jobs in 2008 from CNETThe Securities and Exchange Commission has not confirmed it is looking into how Apple handled reports of CEO Steve Jobs' health.

But it's silly to think it isn't.

Friends like co-founder Steve Wozniak are circling the wagons, questioning whether the SEC should be involved at all.

The answer to that is yes. The health of any public company CEO is material information that shareholders deserve. It's not a question of privacy, but insider information.

If you saw a bus run over Berkshire-Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett at an Omaha street corner, you could trade that. Berkshire stock would plummet, regardless of Buffett's succession planning. You would make big money.

Now what if Buffett had cancer, and you knew because you were a Berkshire insider whom he asked to keep silent on the matter, for the sake of his privacy.

If you traded on that information, or told your wife or friends to trade on it, you would be breaking the law.

The same is true here. No U.S. company, not even Buffett's, is as entrepreneurial and CEO-driven as Steve Jobs' Apple. Any insider who knew how bad his health problems were and traded on it broke the law.

Remember, too, that Jobs and the SEC have a history together. A little matter of some back-dated stock options. Even the Bush-era SEC couldn't let that one pass.

Now this is a sad story on many levels. Jobs is a few years younger than I am. He's one of those I measure my own life against, especially when I'm depressed. He's one of the great business leaders of our time, as big a figure as IBM founder Tom Watson. Or his son, who built the computer giant.

Had either Watson suffered a similar calamity at a similar age, neither the press nor the regulators could have let it pass. So we can't let it pass this time, either.

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