Probability Weighting and Employee Stock Options
Oliver G. Spalt
Tilburg University - Department of Finance
April 13, 2011
AFA 2009 San Francisco Meetings Paper
Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis (JFQA), Forthcoming
This paper documents that riskier firms, in particular firms with higher idiosyncratic volatility, grant more stock options to non-executive employees. Standard models in the literature cannot easily explain this pattern. A simple model in which a risk-neutral firm and an employee with cumulative prospect theory preferences bargain over the employee's pay package can. The key feature which makes stock options attractive is probability weighting. The model fits the data on option grants remarkably well when calibrated using standard parameters from the experimental literature. Overall, the results suggest that risky firms can profitably use stock options to cater to an employee demand for long-shot bets.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 46
Keywords: Behavioral Corporate Finance, Cumulative prospect theory, Employee stock options
JEL Classification: G30, J33, M52
Date posted: March 9, 2008 ; Last revised: April 3, 2012
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