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Accounting for Stock Options

Research Paper Series Paper No. 1848(R1)

53 Pages Posted: 25 Jun 2004  

Jeremy Bulow

Stanford University; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

John B. Shoven

Stanford University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: March 2005

Abstract

Employee stock options differ substantially from traded options. Most expire within 90 days of the termination of employment, and are forfeited if the employee leaves before vesting. The major accounting standards boards are in agreement that options should be expensed, but companies have legitimate complaints about the proposed methods. For example, the proposals create accounting incentives for firms to lay off employees who hold unvested and nearly worthless options. We propose a simple accounting system, based on 90 day option prices, that addresses these legitimate objections. The system produces objective, transparent, and decision-relevant information. Firms are given signifcant fexibility regarding the amortization of unvested option expense. This fexibility is created, without distorting incentives, by our use of market-based prices whenever an option expense is recognized.

Keywords: Accounting standards, financial statements, expensing, compensation, benefits, vesting, microeconomics

JEL Classification: J0, J3, G3, L0, L2

Suggested Citation

Bulow, Jeremy and Shoven, John B., Accounting for Stock Options (March 2005). Research Paper Series Paper No. 1848(R1). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=521882 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.521882

Jeremy I. Bulow (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Room L 237
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States
650-723-2160 (Phone)
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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
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John B. Shoven

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Stanford University - Department of Economics ( email )

Landau Economics Building
579 Serra Mall
Stanford, CA 94305-6072
United States
650-326-5377 (Phone)
650-328-4163 (Fax)

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