Easy Money? Managerial Power and the Option Backdating Game Revisited

28 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2013 Last revised: 30 Nov 2019

See all articles by Graeme Guthrie

Graeme Guthrie

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Economics & Finance

Tom Stannard

Victoria University of Wellington

Date Written: November 27, 2019

Abstract

This paper presents a model of a firm that backdates the granting of executive stock options in order to maximize actual compensation for a given level of reported compensation. The model is used to estimate the magnitude of the difference between the actual and reported values of option grants. Although the Sarbanes-Oxley Act has reduced the likelihood of very large differentials, it has had a relatively minor impact on the average differential. The magnitude of misreporting is higher, on average, when the share price is more volatile, the options have shorter lifetimes, or there is a longer window in which to grant the options. We analyze almost 30,000 option grants between 2003 and 2013 and find that firms with more to gain from strategic backdating, and with less chance of being detected, are more likely to exhibit behavior consistent with strategic backdating.

Keywords: option backdating, executive compensation, managerial power hypothesis, Sarbanes-Oxley Act

JEL Classification: G34, D81, J33, K22, M52

Suggested Citation

Guthrie, Graeme and Stannard, Tom, Easy Money? Managerial Power and the Option Backdating Game Revisited (November 27, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2283974 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2283974

Graeme Guthrie (Contact Author)

Victoria University of Wellington - School of Economics & Finance ( email )

P.O. Box 600
Wellington 6140
New Zealand
64 4 463 5763 (Phone)

Tom Stannard

Victoria University of Wellington ( email )

PO Box 600
Wellington 6140
New Zealand

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