Stock option expense management after SFAS 123R

Jap Efendi, Li Chin Jennifer Ho, Jeffrey J. Tsay, Yu Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to examine whether firms manage the total value of stock option grants downward after the implementation of Statement of Financial Accounting Standards (SFAS) 123R to reduce their reported option expenses. Design/methodology/approach: All Standard & Poor's (S&P) 1500 firms with available stock option data in 2004 and 2006 are included in the analysis. The authors analyze if the total value of options granted, the per share fair value of options granted, the number of options granted as well as each individual input assumption have changed from the pre-SFAS 123R (i.e. 2004) to the post-SFAS 123R (i.e. 2006) period. We compare post-SFAS123R option pricing assumptions and per share fair value of options granted with their respective expected values to verify the results. We also analyze whether SFAS 123R has differential effects on firms which chose to disclose option expense only in footnotes ("disclosing firms") versus firms which voluntarily recognized option expense ("recognizing firms") prior to SFAS 123R. Findings: The results show that after SFAS 123R, the total fair value of stock options granted for disclosing firms declined significantly. The decrease appears to result from managerial discretion over volatility and dividend yield assumptions as well as the reduction in the number of options granted. The evidence suggests that firms engage in not only assumption-based manipulations but also real activities to lower reported stock option expenses. It was also found that disclosing firms lower the total fair value of stock options granted to a greater extent than recognizing firms. Originality/value: This study adds to prior literature that examines the opportunistic incentives for managers to use discretion in reporting stock option expenses. This study contributes to the earnings management literature by providing another example of manipulating earnings through real activities. Finally, our study should be of interest to regulators and investors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-231
Number of pages22
JournalReview of Accounting and Finance
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 5 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Disclosure versus recognition
  • Earnings management
  • SFAS 123R
  • Stock option-based compensation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Accounting
  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
  • Finance


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