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What determines stock option contract design?

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  • Liljeblom, Eva
  • Pasternack, Daniel
  • Rosenberg, Matts

Abstract

We analyze the factors that drive exercise price policy for executive option plans (ESOPs) and their scope in a country where firms are not subject to the tax and accounting considerations that seem to have led to the dominance of at-the-money options in the US Our “unbounded” data for Finland provide us with an excellent opportunity to investigate whether contract design is consistent with compensation theory. Our findings are largely consistent with predictions from the optimal contracting literature. The size of the plan is negatively related to Tobin's Q and firm size and positively related to proxies for monitoring costs, which also influence the probability of launching premium ESOPs. Our results also show that the premium (out-of-the-moneyness) is negatively related to prior stock returns and cash flow-to-assets, which may be an indication of high-water mark contracting, or alternatively, of managerial power. Finally, we also find some support for a positive relation between the premium and the length of the vesting period when maturity is fixed, which indicates an effort to keep the incentives for management from falling over time.

Suggested Citation

  • Liljeblom, Eva & Pasternack, Daniel & Rosenberg, Matts, 2011. "What determines stock option contract design?," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(2), pages 293-316.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfinec:v:102:y:2011:i:2:p:293-316
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jfineco.2011.02.021
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    Cited by:

    1. Onur Kemal Tosun, 2020. "Differences in CEO compensation under large and small institutional ownership," European Financial Management, European Financial Management Association, vol. 26(4), pages 1031-1058, September.
    2. Tang, Chun-Hua, 2016. "Impacts of future compensation on the incentive effects of existing executive stock options," International Review of Economics & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 273-285.
    3. Michele Fioretti, 2020. "Social Responsibility and Firm's Objectives," Sciences Po publications 2020-01, Sciences Po.
    4. Jean Canil & Bruce Rosser, 2015. "Evidence on exercise pricing in CEO option grants in two countries," Annals of Finance, Springer, vol. 11(3), pages 383-410, November.
    5. Bouras Mehdi & Gallali Mohamed Imen, 2014. "The Determinants Of Equity Based Compensation: A Bidimensional Validity Of The Agency Theory," Asian Academy of Management Journal of Accounting and Finance (AAMJAF), Penerbit Universiti Sains Malaysia, vol. 10(2), pages 117-145.
    6. Korkeamäki, Timo & Liljeblom, Eva & Pasternack, Daniel, 2017. "CEO power and matching leverage preferences," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 19-30.
    7. Merz, Alexander, 2017. "What have we learned from SFAS 123r and IFRS 2? A review of existing evidence and future research suggestions," Journal of Accounting Literature, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 14-33.
    8. Simona Catuogno & Sara Saggese & Fabrizia Sarto & Riccardo Viganò, 2016. "Shedding light on the aim of stock options: a literature review," Journal of Management & Governance, Springer;Accademia Italiana di Economia Aziendale (AIDEA), vol. 20(2), pages 387-411, June.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Stock option contract design; Optimal contracting; Agency cost;

    JEL classification:

    • G30 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - General
    • G32 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Financing Policy; Financial Risk and Risk Management; Capital and Ownership Structure; Value of Firms; Goodwill
    • J33 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Compensation Packages; Payment Methods

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