Executive Stock Options and Earnings Management - a Theoretical and Empirical Analysis
47 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2004
Date Written: December 10, 2005
We study the effect of the grants of executive stock options and restricted stock on earnings management and insider trading during the vesting years of these grants. In our theoretical model, an informed manager compensated by stock options (which include restricted stock as a special case) is mandated to issue an earnings report. Uninformed nvestors price the stock based on this report. The manager can manipulate the report to affect the stock price, but earnings management is costly to the manager. The optimal report balances the benefits from the exercised stock options and the costs of earnings management. Earnings management and insider trading occur only if the options are in-the-money post manipulation at the vesting date, and are intensified by larger grants. Consequently, both earnings management and insider trading will be more severe in periods of high stock prices. Our empirical tests focus on the link between the timing and attributes of option grants and the extent of earnings management and insider trading. Our empirical results confirm that (1) deeply in-the-money executive stock options lead to more earnings management and insider trading at the vesting years of the options; (2) more grants of options intensify the extent of earnings management at the vesting years; and (3) earnings management and insider trading are more prevalent when stock prices are high due to high past returns.
JEL Classification: J33, M41, M43, G38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation