If Steve Jobs were alive the Department of Justice would be seriously considering making him do jail time for running Apple like an organised crime family. According to the New York Times which normally only runs pro-Apple stories, Jobs was clearly the driving force in a conspiracy to prevent competitors from poaching employees.
Jobs seems never to have read, or may have chosen to ignore, the first paragraph of the Sherman Antitrust Act which says that every “conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce” is illegal and “every person who shall make any contract or engage in any combination or conspiracy hereby declared to be illegal shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and, on conviction thereof, shall be punished by fine… or by imprisonment not exceeding three years, or by both said punishments.”
To make matters worse, Jobs is a serial offender having also run a conspiracy with the book publishers to force the price of ebooks up.
Walking antitrust violation
Herbert Hovenkamp, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Law and an expert in antitrust law said that Jobs “was a walking antitrust violation” said he was astounded by the risks he seemed willing to take.
Jobs also figured prominently in the options backdating scandal that rocked Silicon Valley eight years ago. Thousands of options were backdated at both Apple and the computer animation studio Pixar, where Jobs was also chief executive, to increase the value of option grants to senior employees.
Apple’s lawyers cleared Jobs of wrongdoing, saying he didn’t understand the accounting implications. But concluded that he “was aware or recommended the selection of some favourable grant dates.”
Jobs received options on 7.5 million shares, which were backdated to immediately bolster their value by over $20 million. Apple admitted that the minutes of the October board meeting where the grant was supposedly approved were fabricated, that no such meeting had occurred and that the options were actually granted in December.
Get out of jail free card
Jobs always seemed to have a “get out of jail free” card when playing monopoly. While five executives of other companies went to prison for backdating options and other Apple executives eventually settled Securities and Exchange Commission charges and left the company. Jobs was never charged.
The Justice Department tends to file criminal antitrust charges only in the worst cases, and by that standard, Jobs would probably never have been charged. Which means that had he lived he would have continued to offend. Walter Isaacson, author of the best-selling biography “Steve Jobs” said that Jobs’s conduct was a reminder that the difference between genius and potentially criminal behaviour can be a fine line.
Jobs “always believed that the rules that applied to ordinary people didn’t apply to him…. That was Steve’s genius but also his oddness. He believed he could bend the laws of physics and distort reality. That allowed him to do some amazing things, but also led him to push the envelope.”
Of course, there are precedents in English law for posthumous trails. In the 17th century, Oliver Cromwell was tried for treason, found guilty and his body was exhumed from Westminster Abbey. His body was subjected to the ritual of a posthumous execution, and hanged in chains at Tyburn. His severed head was displayed on a pole outside Westminster Hall until 1685. (Oh God. Ed)