Disclosure versus recognition: the case of expensing stock options

Cheng, Xiaoyan; Smith, David
May 2013
Review of Quantitative Finance & Accounting;May2013, Vol. 40 Issue 4, p591
Academic Journal
The SFAS 123R comment process generated over 6,500 comment letters, most of which were against the standard's enactment. This outpouring of emotion indicates that many believe that disclosure versus recognition matters. Our paper provides evidence for the debate whether managers' discretion, motivation, and accuracy of stock option estimates differ under the recognition and disclosure reporting regimes. We compare firms that are mandatorily forced to recognize stock options expense with those voluntarily choosing to do so. First we find that mandatory firms (versus voluntary) with more intensive stock option granting tend to understate option estimates, especially in the post SFAS123R period. Our results suggest that a higher recognition cost motivates firms for doing so. Second, we find that mandatory firms with lower future operating risk have better accuracy in the post SFAS123R period, as compared to themselves in the pre SFAS123R period and voluntary firms in the post SFAS123 period. Our results support the notion that the informativeness of option estimates explains the level of accuracy. The findings of this paper add to the debate on the benefits of recognizing stock option expenses.


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