Expected term estimates used in determining fair value of stock options. VALUATION AND EXPENSE INFORMATION | The assumptions used to estimate the fair value of stock options, ESPP shares, RSUs and PRSUs were as follows: Stock options: Expected term (in years). Expected stock price volatility. Risk-free interest rate. Dividend yield. Weighted-average estimated fair value.

Expected term estimates used in determining fair value of stock options

Intrinsic Value

Expected term estimates used in determining fair value of stock options. The Company estimates the fair value of stock options granted using the Black-Scholes-Merton option-pricing formula and a single option award approach. Expected term (in years). , Volatility. 39, %, 31, %. Expected dividend. , %, , %. Risk-free interest rate. , %, , %. Weighted-average fair value.

Expected term estimates used in determining fair value of stock options


Expensing options is good in theory and practice. This new treatment ensures that estimates of stock option value reflect both the nature of the incentive contract and the subsequent market reality. Now that companies such as General Electric and Citigroup have accepted the premise that employee stock options are an expense, the debate is shifting from whether to report options on income statements to how to report them.

A procedure they call fair-value expensing adjusts and eventually reconciles cost estimates made at grant date with subsequent changes in the value of the options, and it does so in a way that eliminates forecasting and measurement errors over time. The method captures the chief characteristic of stock option compensation—that employees receive part of their compensation in the form of a contingent claim on the value they are helping to produce. The mechanism involves creating entries on both the asset and equity sides of the balance sheet.

The prepaid-compensation account is then expensed through the income statement, and the stock option account is adjusted on the balance sheet to reflect changes in the estimated fair value of the granted options.

At the end of the vesting period, the company uses the fair value of the vested option to make a final adjustment on the income statement to reconcile any difference between that fair value and the total of the amounts already reported. Now that companies such as General Electric, Microsoft, and Citigroup have accepted the premise that employee stock options are an expense, the debate on accounting for them is shifting from whether to report options on income statements to how to report them.

The opponents of expensing, however, continue to fight a rearguard action, arguing that grant-date estimates of the cost of employee stock options, based on theoretical formulas, introduce too much measurement error. They want the reported cost deferred until it can be precisely determined—namely when the stock options are exercised or forfeited or when they expire. But deferring recognition of stock option expense flies in the face of both accounting principles and economic reality.

Expenses should be matched with the revenues associated with them. The cost of an option grant should be expensed over the time, typically the vesting period, when the motivated and retained employee is presumed to be earning the grant by generating additional revenues for the company.

Some degree of measurement error is no reason to defer recognition; accounting statements are filled with estimates about future events—about warranty expenses, loan loss reserves, future pension and postemployment benefits, and contingent liabilities for environmental damage and product defects.

The final defense of the antiexpensing lobby is its claim that other financial-statement estimates based on future events are eventually reconciled to the settlement value of the items in question. For instance, estimated costs for pension and postretirement benefits and for environmental and product-safety liabilities are ultimately paid in cash.

At that time, the income statement is adjusted to recognize any difference between actual and estimated cost. As the opponents of expensing point out, no such correcting mechanism currently exists to adjust grant-date estimates of stock option costs. A procedure that we call fair-value expensing for stock options eliminates forecasting and measurement errors over time.

A procedure that we call fair-value expensing adjusts and eventually reconciles cost estimates made at grant date to subsequent actual experience in a way that eliminates forecasting and measurement errors over time. Our proposed method involves creating entries on both the asset and equity sides of the balance sheet for each option grant.

This accounting mirrors what companies would do if they were to issue conventional options and sell them into the market in that case, the corresponding asset would be the cash proceeds instead of prepaid compensation. The prepaid-compensation account is then expensed through the income statement following a regular straight-line amortization schedule over the vesting period—the time during which the employees are earning their equity-based compensation and, presumably, producing benefits for the corporation.

At the same time that the prepaid-compensation account is expensed, the stock option account is adjusted on the balance sheet to reflect changes in the estimated fair value of the granted options. The company obtains the periodic revaluation of its options grant just as it did the grant-date estimate, either from a stock options valuation model or an investment-bank quote.

The amortization of prepaid compensation is added to the change in the value of the option grant to provide the total reported expense of the options grant for the year. At the end of the vesting period, the company uses the fair value of the vested stock option—which now equals the realized compensation cost of the grant—to make a final adjustment on the income statement to reconcile any difference between that fair value and the total of the amounts already reported in the manner described.

The options can now be quite accurately valued, as there are no longer any restrictions on them. Market quotes would be based on widely accepted valuation models. In this case, the cost to the company will be less than if the employee had retained the options because the employee has forgone the valuable opportunity to see the evolution of stock prices before putting money at risk.

The approach we have described is not the only way to implement fair-value expensing. Companies may choose to adjust the prepaid-compensation account to fair value instead of the paid-in capital option account. In this case, the quarterly or annual changes in option value would be amortized over the remaining life of the options.

This would reduce the periodic fluctuations in option expense but involve a slightly more complex set of calculations. The great advantage of fair-value expensing is that it captures the chief characteristic of stock option compensation—namely that employees are receiving part of their compensation in the form of a contingent claim on the value they are helping to produce. Fair-value expensing captures the chief characteristic of stock option compensation—that employees receive part of their pay in the form of a contingent claim on value they are helping to produce.

If the market is actually trading options with exactly the same exercise price and maturity as the vested stock options, Kalepu can use the quoted price for those options instead of the model on which that quoted price would be based. What happens if an employee holding the grant decides to leave the company before vesting, thereby forfeiting the unvested options?

When options vest in the money, however, some employees may choose to exercise immediately rather than retain the full value by waiting to exercise until the options are about to expire. In this case, the firm can use the market price of its shares at the vesting and exercise dates to close off the reporting for the grant. The objective of financial accounting is not to reduce measurement error to zero.

In a similar way, if the FASB and International Accounting Standards Board were to recommend fair-value expensing for employee stock options, companies could make their best estimates about total compensation cost over the vesting life of the options, followed by periodic adjustments that would bring reported compensation expense closer to the actual economic cost incurred by the company. He is a coauthor, with Michael E. December Issue Explore the Archive. RJ Now that companies such as General Electric and Citigroup have accepted the premise that employee stock options are an expense, the debate is shifting from whether to report options on income statements to how to report them.

A version of this article appeared in the December issue of Harvard Business Review.


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