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10-Jul-2020 06:24

The backdating scheme involved moving an effective date for the exercise of stock options from when the options were 'out of the money' to a date that made the options 'in the money' to allow certain executives to exercise their options profitably.Companies such as Comverse, Verisign, F5 Networks, Intuit and Mc Afee - as well as Home Depot, Michael's Stores and United Health Group, to name a few - all engaged in this fraudulent activity to varying degrees and were forced to pay fines and penalties and conduct time-consuming and expensive restatements of their books.Options backdating may still occur under the new reporting regulations, but Sarbanes-Oxley compliant backdating is far less likely to be used for dishonest reasons due to the short time frame that is allowed for reporting.As a result, numerous companies are conducting internal investigations to determine if, when, and how backdating occurred, and are filing amended earnings statements and tax forms to show the issuance of “in the money” options in place of the “at the money” options that were previously reported.To avoid having to pay higher taxes, many companies adopted a policy of issuing “at the money” stock options in lieu of additional income, with the idea that the executive or employee would benefit through the option by working to increase the value of the company without exceeding the one million dollar deductibility cap for executive income.When company executives discovered that they had the ability to backdate stock option grants, thus making them both tax deductible and “in the money” on the date of actual issuance, the common practice of stock option backdating for financial gain began on a widespread level.In essence, the revision enabled companies to increase executive compensation without informing their shareholders if the compensation was in the form of stock options contracts that would only become valuable if the underlying stock price were to increase at a later time.In 1994, a new tax code (162 M) provision declared all executive income levels over one million dollars to be “unreasonable” in order to increase taxes on all applicable salaries by removing them from their previous tax-deductible status.

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Numerous financial analysts replicated and expanded upon the prior academic research, developing lists of companies whose stock price performance immediately after options grants to senior management (the purported dates of which can be ascertained by inspecting a company's Form 4 filings, generally available online at the SEC's website) was suspicious.Options backdating is the practice of altering the date a stock option was granted, to a usually earlier (but sometimes later) date at which the underlying stock price was lower.