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Why Do Some Firms Give Stock Options to All Employees?: An Empirical Examination of Alternative Theories

  • Paul Oyer
  • Scott Schaefer

Many firms issue stock options to all employees. We consider three potential economic justifications for this practice: providing incentives to employees, inducing employees to sort, and helping firms retain employees. We gather data on firms' stock option grants to middle managers from three distinct sources, and use two methods to assess which theories appear to explain observed granting behavior. First, we directly calibrate models of incentives, sorting and retention, and ask whether observed magnitudes of option grants are consistent with each potential explanation. Second, we conduct a cross-sectional regression analysis of firms' option-granting choices. We reject an incentives-based explanation for broad-based stock option plans, and conclude that sorting and retention explanations appear consistent with the data.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 10222.

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Date of creation: Jan 2004
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Publication status: published as Oyer, Paul & Schaefer, Scott, 2005. "Why do some firms give stock options to all employees?: An empirical examination of alternative theories," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(1), pages 99-133, April.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:10222
Note: CF LE LS
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  1. McDonald, Robert L., 2004. "The tax (dis)advantage of a firm issuing options on its own stock," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 88(5), pages 925-955, April.
  2. Carter, Mary Ellen & Lynch, Luann J., 2004. "The effect of stock option repricing on employee turnover," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 91-112, February.
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  9. Jin, Li, 2002. "CEO compensation, diversification, and incentives," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 29-63, October.
  10. Core, John E. & Guay, Wayne R., 2001. "Stock option plans for non-executive employees," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 253-287, August.
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  13. 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.
  14. Huddart, Steven & Lang, Mark, 1996. "Employee stock option exercises an empirical analysis," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(1), pages 5-43, February.
  15. Bull, Clive, 1987. "The Existence of Self-Enforcing Implicit Contracts," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 102(1), pages 147-59, February.
  16. 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.
  17. Canice Prendergast, 2002. "The Tenuous Trade-off between Risk and Incentives," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(5), pages 1071-1102, October.
  18. Paul Gompers & Joy Ishii & Andrew Metrick, 2003. "Corporate Governance And Equity Prices," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 107-155, February.
  19. Scott Keating, A., 1997. "Determinants of divisional performance evaluation practices," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(3), pages 243-273, December.
  20. Aboody, David, 1996. "Market valuation of employee stock options," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1-3), pages 357-391, October.
  21. Bergman, Nittai K. & Jenter, Dirk, 2007. "Employee sentiment and stock option compensation," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 84(3), pages 667-712, June.
  22. Murphy, Kevin J., 1999. "Executive compensation," Handbook of Labor Economics, in: O. Ashenfelter & D. Card (ed.), Handbook of Labor Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 38, pages 2485-2563 Elsevier.
  23. Brian J. Hall & Kevin J. Murphy, 2003. "The Trouble with Stock Options," NBER Working Papers 9784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  24. Hamid Mehran & Joseph Tracy, 2001. "The effect of employee stock options on the evolution of compensation in the 1990s," Economic Policy Review, Federal Reserve Bank of New York, issue Dec, pages 17-34.
  25. Friend, Irwin & Blume, Marshall E, 1975. "The Demand for Risky Assets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 65(5), pages 900-922, December.
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