It's not a formal inquiry, like the one Jobs and Apple faced a few years ago over improperly issued stock options. And the status of a CEO's health isn't ordinarily under the SEC's purview. But his absence at Macworld Expo, an annual event where he's presented Apple gadgets for more than a decade, raised fresh questions about whether Jobs, a survivor of pancreatic cancer, can do his work as CEO. After weeks of uproar, Jobs finally said he would take a six-month medical leave from Apple.
Apple's deceptive statements to the press, shifting explanations of Jobs's no-show, and changing plans for Jobs's work schedule as he recovers from a still-unexplained health problem have raised the SEC's interest.
Let's be honest: Every handwringing journalist who writes about Jobs's health feels obligated to write a disclaimer wishing Jobs a complete and speedy recovery. And indeed, the media's obsession with Jobs is emotionally fraught. But Apple shareholders don't care about Jobs's health; they just want to make money, and are freaked out that Jobs's illness and the economic recession will deal their portfolio a blow.
Apple is set to report quarterly earnings this afternoon — and Jobs has rarely participated in those conference calls, even when well. Shareholders want to hear about Apple's numbers, not Jobs's medical chart. Here's what I think will happen: If sales are disappointing, there will be fresh howls of outrage over Jobs's health disclosures. If iPhones keep flying off the shelf, the SEC will quietly drop the matter.
(Photos via Reuters/Getty Images)