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Private Information, Earnings Manipulations, and Executive Stock Option Exercises

Authors: Bartov, Eli
Mohanram, Partha
Keywords: Executive compensation;Incentives;Stock option exercises;Earnings management
Issue Date: Apr-2004
Series/Report no.: Eli Bartov-06
Abstract: This paper investigates the decision by top-level executives of more than 1,200 public corporations to exercise large stock option awards in the period 1992-2001. We hypothesize and find that abnormally large option exercises predict stock return future performance. We then hypothesize that this predictive ability represents private information about disappointing earnings in the post-exercise period. Consistent with this hypothesis we find that abnormally positive earnings performance in the pre-exercise period turns to disappointing earnings performance in the post-exercise period, and that this pattern comes as a surprise to even sophisticated market participants (financial analysts). We also hypothesize and find that the disappointing earnings in the post-exercise period represent a reversal of inflated earnings in the pre-exercise period. Collectively, these findings suggest that the private information used by top-level executives to time abnormally large exercises follows from earnings management so as to increase the cash payout of exercises.
Appears in Collections:Accounting Working Papers

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