Backdating: Insight Into a Scandal

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In essence, the revision enabled companies to increase executive compensation without informing their shareholders if the compensation was in the form of stock options contracts that would only become valuable if the underlying stock price were to increase at a later time. The problem with this practice, according to the SEC, was that stock option backdating, while difficult to prove, could be considered a criminal act.

One of the larger backdating scandals occurred at Brocade Communications , a data storage company. It allegedly failed to inform investors, or account for the options expense s properly. In the modern business world, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act has all but eliminated fraudulent options backdating by requiring companies to report all options issuances within 2 days of the date of issue. District Court for the Northern District of California. However, in late and early , the issue of stock options backdating gained a wider audience.

Numerous financial analysts replicated and expanded upon the prior academic research, developing lists of companies whose stock price performance immediately after options grants to senior management the purported dates of which can be ascertained by inspecting a company’s Form 4 filings, generally available online at the SEC’s website was suspicious.

For instance, public companies generally grant stock options in accordance with a formal stock option plan approved by shareholders at an annual meeting. Many companies’ stock option plans provide that stock options must be granted at an exercise price no lower than fair market value on the date of the option grant. Thus, backdating can be misleading to shareholders in the sense that it results in option grants that are more favorable than the shareholders approved in adopting the stock option plan.

The other major way that backdating can be misleading to investors relates to the method by which the company accounts for the options. Until very recently, a company that granted stock options to executives at fair market value did not have to recognize the cost of the options as a compensation expense. However, if the company granted options with an exercise price below fair market value, there would be a compensation expense that had to be recognized under applicable accounting rules.

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A primer for firms hit by stock options scandal How companies handle the investigation into backdating can have a big impact on their business – and investors. Some firms have been linked to the stock options scandal, from blue-chip companies like Home Depot Charts and Apple Computer to a slew of smaller tech firms. There are no signs at this stage of that waning,” said Michael Koenig, an attorney at the Washington office of law firm Dewey Ballantine. Stock options give executives and employees the right to buy shares at a certain price, and if the stock rises after the options are granted, profits can be fat.

Federal prosecutors and the Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether companies “backdated” or otherwise manipulated the dates they granted stock options to make them more lucrative.

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Dawson was government relations liaison at ACS. ACS was founded by Darwin Deason , profile attached. The company, according to one newspaper report, is “deep” in intelligence-related contracts. Deason is based on Haskell: Livingston Kosberg , was a prominent fund-raiser in Texas for the Democratic Party. The Greatest-Ever Bank Robbery. So the oversight group includes board Chairman Darwin Deason.

Deason both received some of the options in question and had a role in their timing, the company has said. ACS says its four member audit committee also is monitoring the situation. Of the six other directors overseeing the probe, two received some of the well-timed options in question. Two others, who are outside, independent directors, were on the compensation committee that approved grants. The remaining two directors, also independent, are men with whom Mr.

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The stock option probe already running through the tech industry just grew more legs. The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California is looking into allegations that several Bay area companies abused the practice of timing stock options; something of a tradition in the tech industry.

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Reuters reported that SEC Chairman Christopher Cox expects to wrap up many of its stock options dating cases within weeks.. Cox gave no indication of whether the options cases would be resolved through settlements. noting that such conduct will not likely continue in today’s environment.

Backdating is the practice of marking a document with a date that precedes the actual date. What is the benefit of backdating ESO grants? ESOs are usually granted at-the-money, i. 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. Backdating allows executives to choose a past date when the market price was particularly low, thereby inflating the value of the options. An example illustrates the potential benefit of backdating to the recipient.

In comparison, had the options been granted at the year-end price when the decision to grant to options actually might have been made, the year-end intrinsic value would have been zero. Is backdating of ESO grants illegal? Backdating of ESO grants is not necessarily illegal if the following conditions hold: No documents have been forged.

Backdating is clearly communicated to the company’s shareholders. After all, it is the shareholders who effectively pay the inflated compensation that typically results from backdating ESOs. Backdating does not violate shareholder-approved option plans. Backdating is properly reflected in earnings.

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Christian Lupica Leave a comment Background The s found year-old Richard Scrushy pumping gas in Selma, Alabama, thinking of better opportunities. With his then-wife pregnant, Scrushy found his first real job working alongside his mother as a respiratory technician. The s saw investors and lenders who were less focused on profitability and more so on revenue. This pressured CEOs, like Scrushy, to continue growing their companies and meeting analyst expectations quarter after quarter.

Combined with this increased pressure of growth was an environment of strange legalism.

The Wall Street Journal’s Saturday edition carried a story about executive stock options granted shortly after September 11, —when share prices had plummeted so that the options granted.

Email this Article The stock option probe already running through the tech industry just grew more legs. Attorney for the Northern District of California is looking into allegations that several Bay area companies abused the practice of timing stock options; something of a tradition in the tech industry. Attorney Kevin Ryan and the FBI’s office in California’s Northern District said today they are forming a local stock options backdating task force that is looking into allegations companies engaged in stock manipulation by changing the grant dates of those options.

If those options helped cook some books, and were done with an “intent to defraud,” there could be even more charges, fines, or just plain hell to pay among a widening list of tech companies. Ryan’s statement is sending a clear signal, aimed at the heart of the tech industry, to clean up its practices regarding how options are granted and backdated.

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