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Who benefits from a bull market? an analysis of employee stock option grants and stock prices

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  • Nellie Liang
  • Scott Weisbenner
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    Abstract

    Stock option grants to top executives and to employees below the top executive ranks have risen rapidly with stock prices in recent years. This paper examines the growth in stock option grants at S&P 1500 companies between 1996 and 1999, and estimates the pay-for-performance sensitivities of the value of new option grants for top executives and, separately, for employees below the top executive levels. In our framework, options are a reward for past performance, leading to a positive relationship between firms' stock prices and the value of new option grants. We find substantial sensitivities for both sets of employees, but they are larger for employees below the top executive levels. Moreover, in contrast to top executives, the sensitivities for employees below the senior management levels do not differ by whether firm stock prices have risen or fallen. The greater sensitivity of option grant values to stock prices for employees below the top ranks is consistent with greater demand for options following price increases, and less willingness to accept options when past performance has been poor. We also find that new grants at larger firms are related to industry performance, consistent with more competitive markets for top executive talent to manage large organizations as industry conditions improve.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.) in its series Finance and Economics Discussion Series with number 2001-57.

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    Date of creation: 2001
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    Handle: RePEc:fip:fedgfe:2001-57

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    Keywords: Stock - Prices ; Stocks;

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    References

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    1. Brian J. Hall, 1998. "The Pay to Performance Incentives of Executive Stock Options," NBER Working Papers 6674, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Oyer, Paul, 2001. "Why Do Firms Use Incentives That Have No Incentive Effects?," Research Papers 1686, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    3. Scott J. Weisbenner, 2000. "Corporate share repurchases in the 1990s: what role do stock options play?," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2000-29, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    4. Carpenter, Jennifer N., 1998. "The exercise and valuation of executive stock options," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 48(2), pages 127-158, May.
    5. Yermack, David, 1995. "Do corporations award CEO stock options effectively?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 39(2-3), pages 237-269.
    6. Mark C. Anderson & Rajiv D. Banker & Sury Ravindran, 2000. "Executive Compensation in the Information Technology Industry," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 46(4), pages 530-547, April.
    7. Garen, John E, 1994. "Executive Compensation and Principal-Agent Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(6), pages 1175-99, December.
    8. Brian J. Hall & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1998. "Are CEOs Really Paid Like Bureaucrats?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(3), pages 653-691, August.
    9. Core, John E. & Guay, Wayne R., 2001. "Stock option plans for non-executive employees," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 253-287, August.
    10. Huberman, Gur, 2001. "Familiarity Breeds Investment," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 14(3), pages 659-80.
    11. David Yermack, 1996. "Good Timing: CEO Stock Option Awards and Company News Announcements," New York University, Leonard N. Stern School Finance Department Working Paper Seires 96-41, New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business-.
    12. Shlomo Benartzi, 2001. "Excessive Extrapolation and the Allocation of 401(k) Accounts to Company Stock," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 56(5), pages 1747-1764, October.
    13. Brian J. Hall & Kevin J. Murphy, 2000. "Stock Options for Undiversified Executives," NBER Working Papers 8052, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Grinblatt, Mark & Titman, Sheridan & Wermers, Russ, 1995. "Momentum Investment Strategies, Portfolio Performance, and Herding: A Study of Mutual Fund Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1088-1105, December.
    15. DeFusco, Richard A & Johnson, Robert R & Zorn, Thomas S, 1990. " The Effect of Executive Stock Option Plans on Stockholders and Bondholders," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 45(2), pages 617-27, June.
    16. Huddart, Steven & Lang, Mark, 1996. "Employee stock option exercises an empirical analysis," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 5-43, February.
    17. Murphy, Kevin J., 1999. "Executive compensation," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 38, pages 2485-2563 Elsevier.
    18. J. Nellie Liang & Steven A. Sharpe, 1999. "Share repurchases and employee stock options and their implications for S&P 500 share retirements and expected returns," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 1999-59, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    19. Marianne Bertrand & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2001. "Are Ceos Rewarded For Luck? The Ones Without Principals Are," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(3), pages 901-932, August.
    20. Aboody, David, 1996. "Market valuation of employee stock options," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1-3), pages 357-391, October.
    21. Core, John & Guay, Wayne, 1999. "The use of equity grants to manage optimal equity incentive levels," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(2), pages 151-184, December.
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    Cited by:
    1. Brown, Jeffrey R. & Liang, Nellie & Weisbenner, Scott, 2006. "401(k) matching contributions in company stock: Costs and benefits for firms and workers," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1315-1346, August.
    2. Peter Roosenboom & Tjalling van der Goot, 2006. "Broad-based employee stock options grants and IPO firms," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(12), pages 1343-1351.

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