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The Trouble with Stock Options


  • Brian J. Hall
  • Kevin J. Murphy


The trouble with options is that too many options are granted to too many people. Most options are granted below the top-executive level, and options are often an inefficient way to attract, retain and motivate executives and (especially) lower-level employees. Why, then, are options so prevalent? We discuss several explanations including changes in corporate governance, reporting requirements, taxes, the bull market and managerial rent-seeking. We also offer an alternative hypothesis that we believe explains the over-use of options and several apparent puzzles: boards and managers falsely perceive stock options to be inexpensive because of accounting and cash-flow considerations.

Suggested Citation

  • Brian J. Hall & Kevin J. Murphy, 2003. "The Trouble with Stock Options," NBER Working Papers 9784, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:9784
    Note: CF LS PE

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Espahbodi, Hassan & Strock, Elizabeth & Tehranian, Hassan, 1991. "Impact on equity prices of pronouncements related to nonpension postretirement benefits," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 14(4), pages 323-346, December.
    2. Aboody, David, 1996. "Market valuation of employee stock options," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(1-3), pages 357-391, October.
    3. Lucian Arye Bebchuk & Jesse M. Fried, 2003. "Executive Compensation as an Agency Problem," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 71-92, Summer.
    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.
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    JEL classification:

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

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