The practice of backdating executive stock options has received significant attention in the U. financial and legal literature, and has recently begun to be discussed in the Canadian legal literature. Backdating, in its most basic form, is the use of hindsight to selectively pick a local low point in a stock’s trading price and issue executive stock options stipulating the selected date as the grant date when, in fact, the options are granted at a later date. In 2003, the rate was reduced to 5% for individuals in the lowest two income brackets and 15% for all others. Because the backdated options’ strike price is lower than the market price on the actual grant date, the recipient has received something of greater monetary value (even if the options have not yet vested) than a correctly dated at-the-money option. Companies could reward executives with cash compensation or additional properly dated and priced incentive awards, including options, rather than engage in dubious backdating practices. It is clear that there must be reasons other than greed that have led so many to backdate executive options. Academics, regulators, and practitioners alike have tried to gain a better understanding of these incentives and the roles they have played in the backdating scandal; however, there is as of yet no consensus regarding the causes of backdating. This is problematic because policy, legislative, or regulatory changes are unlikely to be effective if the root causes are unknown. In 2008, the long-term capital gain rate for individuals in the lowest two tax brackets (currently 5% and 15%) was further reduced to zero. 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 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.The controversy continued and in 2005, at the insistence of the SEC, the FASB modified the FAS123 rule to provide a rule that the options should be expensed as of the grant date.This paper contrasts the post-tax returns of backdated at-the-money options to currently-dated in-the-money options (with the same strike price as the backdated options) and demonstrates that a Canadian executive can earn a significantly larger after-tax return from backdated options compared to a US executive. Your browser will take you to a Web page (URL) associated with that DOI name.
The earliest attempts by accounting regulators to expense stock options in the early 1990s were unsuccessful and resulted in the promulgation of FAS123 by the Financial Accounting Standards Board which required disclosure of stock option positions but no income statement expensing, per se.
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Options backdating is the practice of altering the date a stock option was granted, to a usually earlier (but sometimes later) date at which the underlying stock price was lower.
From the supply side, the question is what motivates a firm to grant a backdated option, and from the demand side, what motivates an executive to demand (or, at the very least, accept) a backdated option?
Both sets of motivations arise from the quantitative and qualitative benefits, costs, and risks of issuing and receiving backdated options. Certain AMT may be carried forward and applied to reduce the general tax payable in subsequent years (to the extent that the general tax exceeds the tentative alternative minimum tax liability for the subsequent year).