IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Log in (now much improved!) to save this paper

On the Accounting Valuation of Employee Stock Options

Listed author(s):
  • Mark Rubinstein.
Registered author(s):

    In its exposure draft, "Accounting for Stock-based Compensation," FASB proposes that either the Black-Scholes or binomial option pricing model be used to expense employee stock options, and that the value of these options be measured on their grant date with typically modest ex-post adjustment. This brings the accounting profession squarely up against the Scylla of imposing too narrow a set of rules that will force many firms to misstate considerably the value of their stock options and the Charybdis of granting considerable latitude which will increase non-comparability across financial statements of otherwise similar firms. This, of course, is a common tradeoff afflicting many rules for external financial accounting. It is not my intention to take a position on this issue, but merely to point out the inherent dangers in navigating between these twin perils. To examine this question, this paper develops a binomial valuation model which simultaneously takes into consideration the most significant differences between standard call options and employee stock options: longer maturity, delayed vesting, forfeiture, non-transferability, dilution, and taxes. The final model requires 16 input variables: stock price on grant date, stock volatility, stock payout rate, stock expected return, interest rate, option striking price, option years-to-expiration, option years-to-vesting, expected employee forfeiture rate, minimum and maximum forfeiture rate multipliers, employee's non-option wealth per owned option, employee's risk aversion, employee's tax rate, percentage dilution, and number of steps in the binomial tree. Many of these variables are difficult to estimate. Indeed, a firm seeking to overvalue its option might report values almost double those reported by an otherwise similar firm seeking to undervalue its options. The alternatives of expensing minimum (zero-volatility) option values, whether at grant or vesting date, can easily be gamed by slightly redefining employee stock option contracts, and therefore would not accomplish FASB's goals. As an alternative, FASB could give more careful consideration to exercise date accounting, under which an expense is recognized at the time of exercise equal to the exercise value of the option. This would achieve the long sought external accounting goal of realizing stock options as compensation, while at the same time minimizing the potential for the revised accounting rules to motivate gaming behavior or non-comparable statements.

    To our knowledge, this item is not available for download. To find whether it is available, there are three options:
    1. Check below under "Related research" whether another version of this item is available online.
    2. Check on the provider's web page whether it is in fact available.
    3. Perform a search for a similarly titled item that would be available.

    Paper provided by University of California at Berkeley in its series Research Program in Finance Working Papers with number RPF-241.

    in new window

    Date of creation: 01 Dec 1994
    Handle: RePEc:ucb:calbrf:rpf-241
    Contact details of provider: Postal:
    University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley, CA USA

    Phone: 510-642-0822
    Fax: 510-642-6615
    Web page:

    More information through EDIRC

    Order Information: Postal: IBER, F502 Haas Building, University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley CA 94720-1922

    No references listed on IDEAS
    You can help add them by filling out this form.

    This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

    When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ucb:calbrf:rpf-241. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Christopher F. Baum)

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

    If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.