In particular, he found that stock prices tend to increase shortly after the grants.
He attributed most of this pattern to grant timing, whereby executives would be granted options before predicted price increases.
A 2004 NY Times article describes this case in greater detail (the article is available here), and so does a 2006 article in Tax Notes Magazine (available here).
In a 2004 CNBC interview, Remy Welling said that "this particular -- well, it's called a 30-day look-back plan, is even widespread in Silicon Valley and maybe throughout the country."The terms "spring loading" and "bullet dodging" refer to the practices of timing option grants to take place before expected good news or after expected bad news, respectively. This is what Professor Yermack hypothesized in his article discussed above, though he never used these terms.
Furthermore, the pre-and post-grant price pattern has intensified over time (see graph below).
By the end of the 1990s, the aggregate price pattern had become so pronounced that I thought there was more to the story than just grants being timed before corporate insiders predicted stock prices to increase.
For several years, Micrel allowed its employees to choose the lowest price for the stock within 30 days of receiving the options.
After these stock option terms came to the attention of the IRS in 2002, it worked out a secret deal with Micrel that would allow Micrel to escape million in taxes and required the IRS to keep quiet about the option terms.ESOs are usually granted at-the-money, i.e., the exercise price of the options is set to equal the market price of the underlying stock on the grant date.Because the option value is higher if the exercise price is lower, executives prefer to be granted options when the stock price is at its lowest.The Wall Street Journal (see discussion of article below) pointed out a CEO option grant dated October 1998.The number of shares subject to option was 250,000 and the exercise price was (the trough in the stock price graph below.) Given a year-end price of , the intrinsic value of the options at the end of the year was (-) x 250,000 = ,750,000.In comparison, had the options been granted at the year-end price when the decision to grant to options actually might have been made, the year-end intrinsic value would have been zero.