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The Trouble with Stock Options

Author

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  • Brian J. Hall
  • Kevin J. Murphy

Abstract

The benefits of stock options are often not large enough to offset the inefficiency implied by the large divergence between the cost of options to companies and the value of options to risk-averse, undiversified executives and employees. Moreover, the benefits of options can often be achieved more effectively and economically through other means. Why are options so prevalent? Several explanations include changes in corporate governance, reporting requirements, taxes, the bull market and managerial rent-seeking. We offer an alternative hypothesis: boards and managers incorrectly perceive stock options to be inexpensive because options create no accounting charge and require no cash outlay.

Suggested Citation

  • Brian J. Hall & Kevin J. Murphy, 2003. "The Trouble with Stock Options," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 49-70, Summer.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:17:y:2003:i:3:p:49-70
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/089533003769204353
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Lisa Meulbroek, 2001. "The Efficiency of Equity-Linked Compensation: Understanding the Full Cost of Awarding Executive Stock Options," Financial Management, Financial Management Association, vol. 30(2), Summer.
    2. repec:bla:joares:v:29:y:1991:i:1:p:129-149 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Ittner, Christopher D. & Lambert, Richard A. & Larcker, David F., 2003. "The structure and performance consequences of equity grants to employees of new economy firms," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-3), pages 89-127, January.
    4. Hall, Brian J. & Murphy, Kevin J., 2002. "Stock options for undiversified executives," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 3-42, February.
    5. Espahbodi, Hassan & Strock, Elizabeth & Tehranian, Hassan, 1991. "Impact on equity prices of pronouncements related to nonpension postretirement benefits," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 323-346, December.
    6. Brian J. Hall & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1998. "Are CEOs Really Paid Like Bureaucrats?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 653-691.
    7. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Fried, Jesse & Walker, David I, 2002. "Managerial Power and Rent Extraction in the Design of Executive Compensation," CEPR Discussion Papers 3558, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    8. Lazear, Edward P, 1979. "Why Is There Mandatory Retirement?," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 87(6), pages 1261-1284, December.
    9. Murphy, Kevin J., 2003. "Stock-based pay in new economy firms," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-3), pages 129-147, January.
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    11. Joseph Fuller & Michael C. Jensen, 2010. "Just Say No to Wall Street: Putting a Stop to the Earnings Game," Journal of Applied Corporate Finance, Morgan Stanley, vol. 22(1), pages 59-63.
    12. Kevin J. Murphy & Brian J. Hall, 2000. "Optimal Exercise Prices for Executive Stock Options," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(2), pages 209-214, May.
    13. Perry, Tod & Zenner, Marc, 2001. "Pay for performance? Government regulation and the structure of compensation contracts," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(3), pages 453-488, December.
    14. Lambert, Richard A. & Lanen, William N. & Larcker, David F., 1989. "Executive Stock Option Plans and Corporate Dividend Policy," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 24(04), pages 409-425, December.
    15. Fenn, George W. & Liang, Nellie, 2001. "Corporate payout policy and managerial stock incentives," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 45-72, April.
    16. Lewellen, Wilbur & Loderer, Claudio & Martin, Kenneth, 1987. "Executive compensation and executive incentive problems : An empirical analysis," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 9(3), pages 287-310, December.
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