Monday, August 14, 2006

eMail answered ... Apple Stock Options Probe Not As Bad As You May Think

Last night I received this eMail:

In a recent post you mentioned that Apple is only facing the "stock options probe" because of a new retroactive law ... can you point me to that law?

Regular Fix Your Thinking Reader

Actually Mr. Regular [whom I thank for being such] ... I remembered reading it way back when Steve Jobs was granted a lot of stock options and at that time I wondered if Apple would face scrutiny over the issue. AT THAT TIME [2005] it was a somewhat easy topic to find out more information about. I remember that the most controversial thing about the law is that it was retroactive to 2002.The reason the new rule had been enacted and made retroactive is because it was technically already a law and a lot of companies had found an "interpretation loophole" - one of which Apple was possibly exploiting.

Here is the best I could find through a quick Google search:

From an article on LAW.COM:

However, the new FASB [Financial Accounting Standards Board] rules dictate that when options are awarded, their value for the vesting period must be calculated and expensed based on the value of the stock the day it was awarded. Companies can choose to expense options all at once, or over the entire vesting period, which could soften the blow a little. Still, fewer big businesses are viewing options as the most cost-effective reward for a job well done.

In addition to changes in the reporting rules, FASB now requires companies to use the Black-Scholes method for computing the value of the options for fiscal year 2006. That formula takes specific variables into account, like company performance and stock value, rather than the old-school calculation, which banked on a fixed-percentage increase (usually 5 percent or 10 percent) in the price of the options per year. Companies have been anticipating the adoption of Black-Scholes; almost half of those who made our list this year already used this more complicated formula. Rees Morrison, a law department consultant at Somerset, N.J.-based Hildebrandt International Inc., says the Black-Scholes method is more transparent than the old calculation, but it also makes stock options more expensive for companies -- another reason for options' diminished popularity.

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