Backdating option scandal stock

Dozens of companies – including United Health Group, Comverse Technology, Vitesse Semiconductor and Affiliated Computer Services – have caught the eye of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice for the timing of their stock option grants.The question: did these companies backdate options grants – and falsify records – to make them more lucrative for their top employees?The roots of the scandal date back to 1972, when an accounting rule was put in place permitting companies to avoid recording executive compensation as an expense on their income statements so long as the income was in the form of stock options that were granted at a rate equal to the market price on the day of the grant, often referred to as an at-the-money grant.This enabled companies to issue enormous compensation packages to senior executives without notifying shareholders.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.

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Backdating does not violate shareholder-approved option plans.Additionally, companies can use backdating to produce greater executive incomes without having to report higher expenses to their shareholders, which can lower company earnings and/or cause the company to fall short of earnings predictions and public expectations.Corporations, however, have defended the practice of stock option backdating with their legal right to issue options that are already in the money as they see fit, as well as the frequent occurrence in which a lengthy approval process is required.In the mid-2000s, an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission resulted in the resignations of more than 50 senior executives and CEOs at firms across the industry spectrum from restaurants and recruiters to home builders and healthcare.High-profile companies including Apple Computers, United Health Group, Broadcom, Staples, Cheesecake Factory, KB Homes, Monster.com, Brocade Communications Systems, Inc., Vitesse Semiconductor Corp.Or did a lot of CEOs just have amazingly good luck?A stock option gives the recipient the right to purchase stock at a set price.Cases of backdating employee stock options have drawn public and media attention.According to a study by Erik Lie, a finance professor at the University of Iowa, more than 2,000 companies used options backdating in some form to reward their senior executives between 19.In 1972, a new revision (APB 25) in accounting rules resulted in the ability of any company to avoid having to report executive incomes as an expense to their shareholders if the income resulted from an issuance of “at the money” stock options.In essence, the revision enabled companies to increase executive compensation without informing their shareholders if the compensation was in the form of stock options contracts that would only become valuable if the underlying stock price were to increase at a later time.