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Disclosed Values of Option-Based Compensation - Incompetence, Deliberate Underreporting or the Use of Expected Option Life?

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  • Ken Bechmann
  • Toke Hjortshøj

Abstract

New accounting standards require firms to value the costs of option-based compensation (OBC). Earlier research has documented that firms in the US generally underreport the values of OBC by manipulating the model inputs used for valuation purposes. This paper examines the information on and values of OBC disclosed by Danish firms. The results show that many firms fail to provide the information required on OBC. However, this does not seem to be a deliberate attempt to hide information, but rather is the result of firms not paying enough attention to the information requirements. Similarly, when studying the disclosed values of OBC, there is no clear evidence of underreporting. For example, there is no evidence that firms use manipulated values for the Black-Scholes (Merton) model inputs in their valuations. Furthermore, firms determine the expected option life in a way that is generally consistent with the guidelines provided by the accounting standards. The only exception is when options are granted to the board of directors, as this led a few firms to underreport option values in a way that cannot be explained by an appropriate adjustment of the expected option life. These findings differ from those of the US, but are consistent with the more limited use of OBC and the lower level of attention paid to these values in Denmark. Furthermore, the financial press in Denmark and powerful Danish institutional investors seem to have a disciplinary effect on Danish firms such that most of the firms provide sufficient and accurate information even though the official consequences of not doing so are very limited.

Suggested Citation

  • Ken Bechmann & Toke Hjortshøj, 2009. "Disclosed Values of Option-Based Compensation - Incompetence, Deliberate Underreporting or the Use of Expected Option Life?," European Accounting Review, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 18(3), pages 475-513.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:euract:v:18:y:2009:i:3:p:475-513 DOI: 10.1080/09638180802481672
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