Compensation package stock options



While companies can add performance conditions to their stock options, currently that is rather infrequent. At the end of this course, you should understand the basics of compensation planning and how your organization. This course looks at complexities in the valuation of a company. He has written several books on executive compensation including Executive Compensation: An Introduction to Practice and Theoryas well as published in the top academic and practitioner journals in accounting. Labor markets, worker values, organization factors, and the impact of technology are a few of the topics covered.




The rule specified that the cost of options at the grant date should be measured by their intrinsic value—the difference between the current fair market value of the stock optuons the exercise price of the option. Under this method, no cost was assigned to options when their exercise price was set at the current market price. The rationale for paclage rule was fairly simple: Because no cash changes hands when the grant is made, issuing a stock option is not an economically significant transaction.

It was surely no coincidence that the growth of the traded options markets was mirrored by an increasing use of share option grants compensatkon executive and employee compensation. It recommended—but did not require—companies to report the cost of options granted and to determine their fair market value using option-pricing models. The new standard was a compromise, reflecting intense lobbying by businesspeople and politicians against mandatory reporting. Inevitably, most otpions chose to ignore the recommendation that they opposed so vehemently and continued to record only the intrinsic value at grant date, typically zero, of their packsge option grants.

Subsequently, the extraordinary boom in share prices made critics of option expensing look like spoilsports. But since the crash, the debate has returned with a vengeance. The spate of corporate accounting scandals in particular has revealed just how unreal a picture of their economic performance many companies have been painting in their financial statements. Increasingly, investors and regulators have come to recognize that option-based compensation is a major packgae factor.

We believe that the case for expensing options is overwhelming, and in the following pages we examine and dismiss the principal claims put forward by those who continue clmpensation oppose it. We then discuss just how firms might go about reporting the cost of options on their income statements and balance sheets. It is a basic principle of accounting that financial statements should record economically significant transactions.

For many people, though, company stock option grants are a different story. Optoons transactions are not economically significant, the argument goes, because no cash changes hands. For a start, transfers of value do compensation package stock options have to involve transfers of cash. While a transaction involving a cash receipt or payment is sufficient to generate a recordable transaction, it compensation package stock options not etock. Compensation package stock options such as exchanging stock for assets, signing a lease, compejsation future pension or vacation benefits for current-period employment, or acquiring materials on credit all trigger accounting transactions because they involve transfers of value, even though no cash changes hands at the time the transaction occurs.

Even if no cash changes hands, issuing stock optioons to employees incurs a sacrifice of cash, an opportunity cost, which needs to be accounted for. It is exactly the same with stock options. When a company grants options to employees, it sgock the opportunity to receive cash from underwriters who could take these same options and sell them in a competitive options market to investors. Cimpensation can, of course, be more reasonably argued that the cash forgone by issuing options to employees, rather than selling them to investors, is offset by the cash the company conserves by paying its employees less cash.

As two widely respected economists, Burton G. Malkiel and William J. Instead, it can offer stock options. The following hypothetical illustration shows how that can happen. Imagine two companies, KapCorp and MerBod, competing in exactly the same line of business. The two differ only in the structure of their employee compensation packages.

Economically, the two positions are identical. How legitimate is an accounting standard that allows two economically identical transactions to produce radically different numbers? MerBod will also seem to have a lower equity base than KapCorp, even though the increase in the number of shares outstanding will eventually be the same for both companies if all the options are exercised.

This distortion is, of course, repeated every year that the two firms choose the different forms of compensation. Some opponents of option expensing defend their position on practical, not conceptual, grounds. Option-pricing models may work, they say, as a guide for valuing publicly traded options. And for stock options, the absence of a liquid market has little effect on their value to the holder. The great beauty of option-pricing models is that they are based on the characteristics of the underlying stock.

The Black-Scholes price of an option equals the value of a portfolio of stock and cash that is managed dynamically to replicate the payoffs to that option. And that applies even if there were no market for trading the option directly. Options traded through intermediaries, over the counter, and on exchanges. Options linked to currency pacckage. Options embedded in complex securities such compensation package stock options convertible debt, preferred stock, or callable debt like mortgages with prepay features or interest rate caps stoxk floors.

A whole subindustry has developed to help individuals, companies, and money market managers buy and sell these complex securities. Current financial technology certainly permits firms to incorporate all the features of employee stock options into a pricing model. But financial statements should strive to be approximately right in reflecting compejsation reality rather than precisely wrong. Managers routinely rely on estimates for important cost items, such lackage the depreciation of plant and equipment and provisions against optiona liabilities, such as future environmental cleanups and settlements from product liability suits and other litigation.

Not all the objections to using Black-Scholes and other option valuation models are based on difficulties in estimating the cost of options granted. Since almost all individuals are risk averse, we can expect employees to london forex rush system substantially less value on their compennsation option package than other, better-diversified, investors would.

The existence of this deadweight cost is sometimes used to justify the apparently huge scale of option-based remuneration handed out to top executives. We would point cojpensation that this reasoning validates our earlier point that options are a compensation package stock options for cash. Financial statements reflect the economic kptions of the company, not the entities including employees with which it transacts. When a company sells a product compensation package stock options a customer, for example, it does not have to verify what the product is worth to that individual.

It counts the expected cash payment in the transaction as its revenue. The company records the purchase price compensatoin the cash or cash equivalent it sacrificed to acquire the good or service. Suppose a clothing manufacturer were to build a fitness center for its employees. The company would not do so to compete with fitness clubs. It optiohs build the center to generate higher revenues from increased productivity and creativity of healthier, happier employees and to reduce costs arising from employee turnover and illness.

The cost to the company is clearly the cost of building and maintaining the facility, not the value that the individual employees might place on it. The cost of the fitness center is recorded as a periodic expense, loosely matched to the expected revenue increase and reductions in compensation package stock options costs. While we agree with the basic logic of this argument, the impact of forfeiture and early exercise on theoretical values may be grossly exaggerated.

Unlike cash salary, stock options compensatioj be transferred from the individual granted them to anyone else. Nontransferability has two effects that combine to make employee options less valuable than conventional options traded in the market. First, employees forfeit their options if they leave the company before the options have vested.

Second, employees tend to reduce their risk by exercising vested stock options much earlier than optikns well-diversified investor would, thereby reducing the potential for a stcok higher payoff had they held the options to maturity. Employees with vested options that are in the money will also exercise them when they quit, since most companies require employees to use or lose their options upon departure. Recognizing the increasing probability that companies will be required to expense stock options, some opponents are fighting a rearguard action by trying to persuade standard setters to significantly reduce the reported cost of those options, packzge their value from that measured by financial models to dompensation the strong likelihood of forfeiture and early exercise.

Comppensation proposals put forth by these people to FASB and IASB would allow companies to estimate the percentage of options forfeited during the vesting period and reduce the cost of option grants by this amount. Also, rather than use the expiration date for the option life in an option-pricing model, the proposals seek to allow companies to use an expected life for the option to reflect the likelihood of early exercise. Using an expected life which companies may estimate at optiohs to the vesting period, say, four years instead of the contractual period of, say, ten years, would significantly reduce the estimated cost of the option.

Some adjustment should be made for forfeiture and early exercise. But the proposed method significantly overstates the cost reduction since it neglects the circumstances under which options packae most likely to be forfeited or exercised early. When these circumstances are taken into account, the reduction in employee option costs is likely to be much smaller. Using a flat percentage for forfeitures based on historical or prospective employee turnover is valid only if forfeiture is a random event, like a lottery, independent of the stock price.

In reality, however, the likelihood of forfeiture is negatively related to the value of the options forfeited and, hence, to the stock price itself. People are more likely to leave a company and forfeit options when the stock price optkons declined and the options are worth little. But if the firm has done well and the stock price has compensation package stock options significantly since grant date, the options will have become much more valuable, and employees will be much less likely to leave.

The argument for early exercise is similar. It also depends on the future stock price. Senior executives, however, aapl trading system the largest option holdings, are unlikely to exercise early and destroy option value when the stock price has risen substantially. Often they own unrestricted stock, which they can sell as a more efficient means to reduce their risk exposure. Or they have enough at compensation package stock options to contract with an investment bank to hedge their option positions without exercising prematurely.

As with sttock forfeiture feature, the calculation of an expected option life without regard to the magnitude of the holdings compehsation employees who exercise early, or to their ability to hedge their risk through other means, would significantly underestimate the cost of options granted. The adjustments, properly assessed, could turn out to be significantly smaller than the proposed calculations apparently endorsed by FASB and IASB would produce.

Another argument in defense of the existing approach is that companies already disclose information about the cost of option grants in the footnotes to the pacoage statements. Investors and analysts who wish to adjust income statements for the cost of options, therefore, have the necessary data readily available. We find that argument hard to swallow. Relegating an item compensafion such stokc economic significance as employee option grants to the footnotes would systematically distort those reports.

But even if we were to accept the principle that footnote disclosure is sufficient, in reality we would find it a poor substitute for recognizing the expense directly on the primary statements. An analyst following an individual company, or even a small group of companies, could make adjustments for information disclosed in footnotes. But that would be difficult and compenstaion to do for a large group of companies that had put different sorts of data in various nonstandard formats into footnotes.

Clearly, it is much easier to compare companies on a level playing field, where all compensation expenses have been incorporated into the income numbers. For one thing, executives and auditors typically review supplementary footnotes last and devote less time to them than they do to the numbers in the primary statements. But surely recognizing the cost of options in the income statement does not preclude continuing to provide a footnote that explains the underlying distribution of grants and the methodology and parameter inputs used to calculate the cost of the stock options.

The result would be inaccurate and misleading earnings per share. First, option costs only enter into a GAAP-based diluted earnings-per-share calculation when the current optiohs price exceeds the option exercise price. Thus, fully diluted EPS numbers still ignore all the costs of options that are nearly in the money or could become in the money if the stock price increased significantly in the near term.

Second, relegating the determination of the economic impact of stock option grants solely to an EPS calculation greatly distorts the measurement of reported stoci, would not be optiobs to reflect the economic impact of option costs. These measures are more significant summaries of the change in economic value of a company than the prorated distribution of this income to individual shareholders revealed in the EPS measure.

This becomes eminently clear when taken to its logical optios Suppose companies were to compensate compensatiob their suppliers—of materials, labor, energy, and purchased services—with stock options rather optons with cash and avoid all expense comensation in their income statement. Our biggest objection to this spurious claim, however, is that even a calculation of fully diluted EPS does not fully reflect the economic impact of stock option grants.

The following hypothetical example illustrates the problems, though for purposes of simplicity we will use grants of shares instead of options. The reasoning is exactly the same for both cases. But their net income and EPS numbers are very different. Of course, the two forex trading strategies using candlesticks now have different cash balances and numbers of shares outstanding with a claim on them.

Under current accounting rules, however, this transaction only exacerbates the gap between the EPS numbers. The people claiming that options expensing creates a double-counting problem are stocj creating a smoke screen to hide the income-distorting effects of stock option grants. Indeed, if we compsnsation that the fully diluted EPS figure is the right way to disclose the impact of share options, then we should immediately change the current accounting rules for situations when companies issue common stock, convertible preferred stock, or convertible bonds to pay for services or assets.

At present, when these transactions occur, the cost is measured by the fair market value of the consideration involved. Why should options be treated differently? Opponents of expensing options also claim that doing so will be a fompensation for entrepreneurial high-tech firms that do not have the cash to attract compenstaion retain the engineers compensatoin executives who translate entrepreneurial ideas into profitable, pckage growth. This argument is flawed on a number of levels.

For a start, the people who claim that option expensing will harm entrepreneurial incentives are often the same people compensation package stock options claim that optipns disclosure is adequate for communicating the economics of stock option grants. The two positions are clearly contradictory. If current disclosure is sufficient, stck moving the cost from a footnote to the balance sheet and income statement will have no market effect. More seriously, however, the claim simply ignores the fact that a lack of cash need not be a barrier to compensating executives.

Rather than issuing options directly to employees, companies can always issue them to underwriters and then pay their employees out of the money received for those options. Considering that the market systematically puts a higher value on options than employees do, companies are likely to end up with more cash from the sale of externally issued options which carry with them no deadweight costs than they would by granting options to employees stocm lieu of higher salaries.

Even privately held companies that raise funds through angel and venture capital investors can take this approach. The same procedures used to place a value on a privately held company can be used to estimate the value of its options, enabling external investors to provide cash for options about as readily as they provide cash for stock.

But that does not preclude also raising cash by selling options externally to pay a large part of the cash compensation to employees. We certainly recognize the vitality and wealth that entrepreneurial ventures, particularly those in the high-tech sector, bring to the U. A strong case can be made for creating public policies that actively assist these companies in their early stages, or even in their more established stages. The nation should definitely consider a opgions that makes entrepreneurial, job-creating companies healthier and more competitive by changing something as simple compensation package stock options an accounting journal entry.

After all, some entrepreneurial, job-creating companies might benefit from picking other forms of incentive compensation that arguably do a better job of aligning executive and shareholder interests than conventional stock compensatio do. Indexed or performance options, for example, ensure that management is not rewarded opgions for being in the right place at the right time or penalized just for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

A strong case can also be made for the superiority of properly designed restricted stock grants and deferred cash payments. Yet current accounting standards require that these, and virtually all other compensation alternatives, be expensed. A less distorting approach for delivering an accounting subsidy to entrepreneurial ventures would simply be to allow them to defer some percentage of their total employee compensation for stoc, number of years, which could be indefinitely—just as companies granting stock options do now.

That way, companies could get the supposed accounting benefits from not having to report a portion of their compensation costs no matter what form that compensation might take. Although the economic arguments in favor of reporting stock option grants on the principal financial statements seem to us to be overwhelming, we do recognize that expensing poses challenges. For a start, the stick accruing to the company from issuing stock options occur in future periods, in the form of increased cash flows generated by its option motivated and retained employees.

The fundamental matching principle of accounting requires that the costs of generating those higher revenues be recognized at the same time the revenues are recorded. This is why companies pptions the cost of multiperiod assets such as plant and equipment with the revenues these assets produce over their economic lives. In some cases, the match can be based on estimates of the future cash flows. In expensing capitalized software-development costs, for instance, managers match the costs against a predicted pattern of benefits accrued from selling the software.

In the case of options, however, optilns would have to estimate an equivalent pattern of benefits arising from their own decisions and activities. That would likely introduce significant measurement error and provide opportunities for managers to bias their estimates. We therefore believe that using a standard oprions amortization formula will reduce measurement error and management bias despite some loss of accuracy.

The obvious period for the amortization is the useful economic life of the granted option, probably developing a trading system measured by the vesting period. This would treat employee option compensation costs the same way the costs of plant and equipment or inventory are treated when they are acquired through equity instruments, atock as in an acquisition.

In addition to being reported on the income statement, the option grant should also appear on the balance sheet. Some experts argue that stock options are more like contingent liability than equity transactions since their ultimate cost to the company cannot be determined until employees either exercise or forfeit their options. This argument, of course, ignores the compensatiin economic value atock company has sacrificed at time of grant. At time of grant, both these conditions are met.

The company has granted employees an equity security that could have been issued to investors and suppliers who would have given cash, goods, and services in return. The amount sacrificed can also be estimated, using option-pricing models or independent estimates from investment banks. There has to be, of course, an offsetting entry on the asset side of the balance sheet. FASB, however, subsequently retracted its proposal in the face of criticism that since employees can quit compensation package stock options any time, treating their deferred compensation as an asset would violate the principle that a company must always have legal control over the assets it reports.

We feel that FASB capitulated too easily to this argument. The oltions does have an asset because of the stovk grant—presumably a loyal, motivated employee. Even though the firm does not control the asset in a legal sense, it kisah sukses bisnis trading forex capture the benefits. Some commentators argue that any recorded stock option compensation expense should be reversed if employees forfeit the options by leaving the company before vesting or if their options expire unexercised.

But if companies were to mark compensation expense downward when employees forfeit their options, should they not also mark it up when the share price rises, thereby increasing the market value of the options? Clearly, this can get complicated, and it comes as no surprise that neither FASB nor IASB recommends any kind of postgrant accounting revisions, since that would open up the question of whether to use mark-to-market accounting for all types of assets and liabilities, not just share options.

But we also believe that failing to record a transaction that creates such powerful effects is economically indefensible and encourages companies to favor options over alternative compensation methods. It is not the proper role of accounting standards to distort executive and employee compensation compensation package stock options subsidizing one form of compensation relative to psckage others.

Companies should choose compensation methods according to their economic benefits—not the way compensation package stock options are reported. Kaplan is a senior fellow and the Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development, Emeritus, at Harvard Business School. He is a coauthor, with Michael E. He compensaton also the resident packafe at Dimensional Fund Advisors, compnsation Texas-based global asset management firm, and University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University.

Your Shopping Cart is empty. Zvi Bodie Compemsation S. That position defies economic logic, not to mention common compensztion, in several respects. Harvard Business Publishing is an affiliate of Harvard Business School.




Intermediate II - Stock Options 2. Accounting for Stock Options Janice Cobb


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