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On the benefits of allowing CEOs to time their stock option exercises

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  • Volker Laux

Abstract

This article examines the costs and benefits of permitting executives to use inside information to time their stock option exercises. Whereas prior research has focused on the negative effects of timing discretion, I show that such discretion can have beneficial incentive effects in that it leads to improved project abandonment decisions. This result follows because at-the-money options used to induce managerial effort tilt the CEO's preferences toward project continuation. When the CEO is free to unload stock options at will, he will do so exactly in those states where the continuation bias is most detrimental (i.e., in the event of bad news), making the CEO willing to abandon the project. Copyright (c) 2010, RAND.

Suggested Citation

  • Volker Laux, 2010. "On the benefits of allowing CEOs to time their stock option exercises," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 41(1), pages 118-138.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:randje:v:41:y:2010:i:1:p:118-138
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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.
    2. Ke, Bin & Huddart, Steven & Petroni, Kathy, 2003. "What insiders know about future earnings and how they use it: Evidence from insider trades," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 315-346, August.
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    4. 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.
    5. Seyhun, H. Nejat, 1986. "Insiders' profits, costs of trading, and market efficiency," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 189-212, June.
    6. Baiman, Stanley & Verrecchia, Robert E., 1995. "Earnings and price-based compensation contracts in the presence of discretionary trading and incomplete contracting," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 93-121, July.
    7. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Fershtman, Chaim, 1993. "The effects of insider trading on insiders effort in good and bad times," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 9(4), pages 469-481, November.
    8. Seyhun, H Nejat, 1992. "The Effectiveness of the Insider-Trading Sanctions," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 35(1), pages 149-182, April.
    9. Glosten, Lawrence R. & Milgrom, Paul R., 1985. "Bid, ask and transaction prices in a specialist market with heterogeneously informed traders," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 71-100, March.
    10. Dye, Ronald A, 1984. "Inside Trading and Incentives," The Journal of Business, University of Chicago Press, vol. 57(3), pages 295-313, July.
    11. Kyle, Albert S, 1985. "Continuous Auctions and Insider Trading," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 53(6), pages 1315-1335, November.
    12. Benjamin E. Hermalin & Michael S. Weisbach, 2003. "Boards of directors as an endogenously determined institution: a survey of the economic literature," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Apr, pages 7-26.
    13. Bebchuk, Lucian Arye & Fershtman, Chaim, 1994. "Insider Trading and the Managerial Choice among Risky Projects," Journal of Financial and Quantitative Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 29(01), pages 1-14, March.
    14. Steven D. Levitt & Christopher M. Snyder, 1997. "Is No. News Bad News? Information Transmission and the Role of "Early Warning" in the Principal-Agent Model," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 28(4), pages 641-661, Winter.
    15. Huddart, Steven & Lang, Mark, 2003. "Information distribution within firms: evidence from stock option exercises," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(1-3), pages 3-31, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Laux, Volker, 2012. "Stock option vesting conditions, CEO turnover, and myopic investment," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 106(3), pages 513-526.

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