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Optimal Exercise Prices for Executive Stock Options

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  • Brian J. Hall
  • Kevin J. Murphy

Abstract

Although exercise prices for executive stock options can be set either below or above the grant-date market price, in practice virtually all options are granted at the money. We offer an economic rationale for this apparent puzzle, by showing that pay-to-performance incentives for risk-averse undiversified executives are typically maximized by setting exercise prices at (or near) the grant-date market price. We provide an operationally useful alternative to Black-Scholes (1973) for the purpose of both valuing executive stock options and measuring the incentives created by options. Our framework has implications not only for exercise-price policies, but also for indexed options, option repricings, exchanges of cash for stock-based compensation, and the design of bonus plans.

Suggested Citation

  • Brian J. Hall & Kevin J. Murphy, 2000. "Optimal Exercise Prices for Executive Stock Options," NBER Working Papers 7548, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:7548
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    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. Robert C. Merton, 2005. "Theory of rational option pricing," World Scientific Book Chapters, in: Sudipto Bhattacharya & George M Constantinides (ed.),Theory Of Valuation, chapter 8, pages 229-288, World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd..
    3. Brian J. Hall & Jeffrey B. Liebman, 1998. "Are CEOs Really Paid Like Bureaucrats?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 113(3), pages 653-691.
    4. Black, Fischer & Scholes, Myron S, 1973. "The Pricing of Options and Corporate Liabilities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 81(3), pages 637-654, May-June.
    5. 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.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • J0 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - General
    • J3 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs

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