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Steve Jobs, perhaps the most indispensable CEO alive, has some bad news and some good news for shareholders who are nervous about federal investigations into whether he was involved in the backdating of thousands of options awarded to Apple employees.

First, the bad: In a sign that investigators are moving forward with their inquiry, Jobs last week sat down with prosecutors from the US Attorney's office and the Securities and Exchange Commission, The Recorder, a San Francisco legal newspaper, reported, citing unnamed people familiar with the matter.

The meeting suggests that investigators are not convinced Jobs played no role in the activity, despite Apple's announcement that a committee commissioned by Apple and led for former Vice President Al Gore absolved Jobs of all wrongdoing.

Now, the good: The two top attorneys overseeing the Justice Department's backdating investigation in Silicon Valley left and, according to The Recorder, a third is shopping for new work, a development that is likely to stall, if not hinder that agency's prosecution of Jobs.

Kevin Ryan, the US Attorney for Northern California, resigned last week, under what a spokesman for the US Attorney's office described as a "mutually agreeable decision." But according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Ryan was fired by President Bush for reasons we still don't know.

Also out is Christopher Steskal, the lead attorney in the investigation of many Silicon Valley companies. He left for Fenwick & West, a law firm that came to prominence representing Apple in the 1980s and where we presume the attorney will make a considerably higher salary.

Although Jobs has been cleared by Gore and Co., no one has yet explained how stock options granted to the tech sultan were said to have been approved at a board meeting that was later shown to have never occurred. The grant, for 7.5 million options, according to the Wall Street Journal, were processed on December, 2001, but were retroactively pinned to October of that year, when Apple's share price was lower. ®

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