Apple's former general counsel Nancy Heinen is embroiled in a pre-trial dispute in which evidence being assembled to aid her defence against accusations of involvement in the company's stock options scandal is said to violate federal privacy laws.

Heinen's defence team is trying to get hold of private financial records belonging to former employee Wendy Howell in defence of charges raised against the former chief lawyer by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

A Bloomberg report explains Heinen seeks financial records to show Howell faced financial pressure "to do anything' to keep her job at Apple and to discredit her as a witness in the SEC's case, according to court documents filed by Howell in federal court in San Jose, California.

Howell's lawyers argue that Heinen's attempts to secure access to such financial records counters privacy law.

The background is the lawsuit filed by the SEC in April in which Heinen is accused of backdating 7.5 million shares granted to Apple CEO Steve Jobs in 2001.

Howell was implicated in this as she claims Heinen told her to falsify documentation for the grants. Heinen's team argues that Howell's financial circumstances at that time meant she would have done "anything" to keep her job, and wants access to the financial records in order to prove that case and to discredit the SEC's main witness in the case.

Heinen quit Apple in May 2006 without explanation. Two months later Apple disclosed its internal investigation into option backdating, later recording $84 million in charges. Howell was sacked by Apple in December 2006.