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). Most of the research to date has focused on supply side factors (e.g., accounting treatment, securities regulations, and corporate taxation), while there has been little discussion of demand side factors. ESOs are usually granted at-the-money, i.e., the exercise price of the options is set to equal the market price of the underlying stock on the grant date.Because the option value is higher if the exercise price is lower, executives prefer to be granted options when the stock price is at its lowest.(To learn more, read .) In short, it is this failure to disclose - rather than the backdating process itself - that is the crux of the options backdating scandal. To be clear, the majority of public companies handle their employee stock options programs in the traditional manner.That is, they grant their executives stock options with an exercise price (or price at which the employee can purchase the common stock at a later date) equivalent to the market price at the time of the option grant.
The backdating concern occurs when the company does not disclose the facts behind the dating of the option.
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 first step in untangling the causes of backdating is to acknowledge that the backdating phenomenon must be driven by both supply and demand factors. Lipman, Incentive Stock Options and the Alternative Minimum Tax: The Worst of Time, 39 Harv. Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, Pub.
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?