Sec rules backdating stock options

The practice of “backdating” stock option grants has recently captured the attention of regulators, prosecutors, the plaintiffs’ bar, shareholders and the media.

Volatility is especially significant: 29% of companies with high volatility appear to have manipulated grant dates, compared to 13% of those with low volatility.Dozens of companies are under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission for backdating stock options. Alternatively, a company could hit a low without actually backdating its options by granting awards just before a major (positive) earnings announcement, a practice known as "spring-loading." A more extreme and more clearly illegal practice was to say that an award was exercised on a date other than its actual exercise date. Attorney's Office in Northern California has launched a series of investigations and in July issued criminal and securities fraud charges against two top executives at Brocade Communications. National concern about the practice has been spurred by a series of articles in the Wall Street Journal. Companies found to have practiced this could be forced to restate their earnings.The stock plans of many public companies prohibit the granting of below-market options; other companies disclose in their SEC reports that stock options are granted at market and prepare their financial statements on that basis.The term “backdating” refers to a number of option granting practices in which the reported grant date is different from the date on which the option is actually awarded, resulting in an option that is already “in-the-money” at the time of the grant.

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