Companies backdating options
In comparison, had the options been granted at the year-end price when the decision to grant to options actually might have been made, the year-end intrinsic value would have been zero.Backdating does not violate shareholder-approved option plans.Thus, if backdating explains the stock price pattern around option grants, the price pattern should diminish following the new regulation.Indeed, we found that the stock price pattern is much weaker since the new reporting regulation took effect.Most shareholder approved option plans prohibit in-the-money option grants (and thus, backdating to create in-the-money grants) by requiring that option exercise prices must be no less than the fair market value of the stock on the date when the grant decision is made. For example, because backdating is used to choose a grant date with a lower price than on the actual decision date, the options are effectively in-the-money on the decision date, and the reported earnings should be reduced for the fiscal year of the grant.(Under APB 25, the accounting rule that was in effect until 2005, firms did not have to expense options at all unless they were in-the-money.
A particularly interesting example is that of Micrel Inc.
Unless corporate insiders can predict short-term movements in the stock market, my results provided further evidence in support of the backdating explanation.
In a second study forthcoming in the Journal of Financial Economics (available at Randy Heron of Indiana University and I examined the stock price pattern around ESO grants before and after a new SEC requirement in August of 2002 that option grants must be reported within two business days.
For several years, Micrel allowed its employees to choose the lowest price for the stock within 30 days of receiving the options.
After these stock option terms came to the attention of the IRS in 2002, it worked out a secret deal with Micrel that would allow Micrel to escape million in taxes and required the IRS to keep quiet about the option terms.