Fayez A. Elayan, Kuntara Pukthuanthong and Richard Roll
During 2002 and 2003, 140 publicly traded US firms announced their intention to recognize an accounting expense when stock options are granted to employees. Many similar firms elected not to expense options. We study the stock market’s reaction. There is no evidence whatsoever that expensing options reduces the stock price. To the contrary, around announcement dates, we find significant price increases for firms electing to expense options and significant price declines for industry/size/performance-matched firms that did not announce expensing at the same moment. The average relative change in market values is 3.65% during a 6 day window around the announcement. The magnitude of the market’s reaction to expensing depends on agency costs, the magnitude of option expenses, and financial reporting costs. The market’s reaction does not seem to be affected by contracting costs (e.g. induced by debt covenants), growth opportunities, or potential political repercussions. Moreover, the decision to expense and the magnitude of the market’s reaction are not signals of future operating performance. The market seems to react favorably to transparent reporting while it penalizes firms that give the appearance of having something to hide.