Managers' Forecast Guidance In Earnings Surprises Around Employee Stock Option Reissues
Park, Jin Dong
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Option repricing, the practice of canceling underwater options and reissuing options with a lower exercise price, has often been considered an effective mechanism to restore the incentive effects of stock options. Since December 15, 1998, the effective date of FIN No.44, firms have initiated option exchange program as a new form of repricing. Under the new option exchange program, most firms cancel underwater options on a specified date and then reissue options at the first business day that is six months and one day later in order to avoid variable accounting for option repricing. I conjecture that this feature of the option exchange program potentially creates a new agency issue that managers may likely benefit from when a lower stock price results at the option reissue date. Thus, this thesis attempts to explore managers' possible opportunistic actions prior to option reissues from the perspective of earnings surprises. I analyzed earnings surprises and managers' forecast guidance on total 328 option reissues implemented from 2000 to 2005. I find some evidence that managers are more likely to engage in negative earnings surprises prior to `executive' option reissues by guiding analysts' earnings forecasts upward, when the earnings announcement date is closer to the option reissue date. Furthermore, the stock return analysis shows that the abnormal stock return prior to `executive' option reissues is significantly lower than that of `non-executive' option reissues, suggesting that managers probably take some other opportunistic actions to curb or delay stock price increases prior to `executive' option reissues.