Apple could be affected by moves to tighten up US corporate accounting rules in the wake of the WorldCom scandal, Dow Jones reports.

The US regulatory body the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) this week changed its stance on an issue which could conceivably affect Apple's bottom-line.

The move makes it easier for shareholders to insist on "proxy votes" when deciding if a company should treat stock options as a business expense.

Apple does not account for stock options as expenses: like many US companies, it argues that the option to issue stocks to employees helps boost motivation.

Apple watchers say this is likely to matter even more to Apple, following recent rumours that the company has implemented a pay freeze in reaction to the soft economy.

Others argue such issues should be counted as expenses, in favour of more transparent accounting, to prevent future financial scandals.

Over 100 major names could be affected by the SEC's change in stance. The watchdog has till now favoured the argument that issued stock options should not count as expenses.

However, it will no longer permit companies to avoid shareholder votes on options expensing by claiming they relate to the company's "ordinary business", a change in its application of shareholder rules.