June 2007 Vol. 105 No. 8 THE REVIEW

The Economic Impact of Backdating of Executive Stock Options

M. P. Narayanan, Cindy A. Schipani, & H. Nejat Seyhun

This Article discusses the economic impact of legal, tax, disclosure, and incentive issues arising from the revelation of dating games with regard to executive option grant dates. It provides an estimate of the value loss incurred by shareholders of firms implicated in backdating and compares it to the potential gain that executives might have obtained through backdating. Using a sample of firms that have already been implicated in backdating, we find that the revelation of backdating results in an average loss to shareholders of about seven percent. This translates to about $400 million per firm. By contrast, we estimate that the average potential gain from backdating to all executives in these firms is about $500,000 per firm annually. We suggest some remedies not only for backdating, but also for other dubious practices such as springloading.

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