ESO compensation: The roles of default risk, employee sentiment, and insider information
This paper derives a pricing model for employee stock options (ESO) that includes default risk and considers employee sentiment. Using ESO data from 1992 to 2004, the study finds that the average executive's subjective value is about 55% of the Black-Scholes value. Only employees who over-estimate firm returns (or insiders who know that the firm is under-valued) by about 10% per annum will prefer ESOs over cash compensation. Our model also shows that work incentives offered by ESOs may be far lower than those implied by Black-Scholes but that ESOs may induce less risk-taking behavior, contrary to typical moral hazard arguments. Findings may impact relevant accounting regulations as well as compensation decisions.
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