Recording the exercise as having occurred on an earlier date when the stock price was lower would minimize the executive's income tax liability, but constitutes tax fraud.
New research (July 2006) by Eric Lie and Randall Heron found that 29.2% of companies issuing options to executives and/or directors between 19 have grant date patterns that suggest backdating or other manipulative practices (such as "spring-loading," the announcement of a grant before good news is released), and 23% of options issued to executives appear to have been backdated or spring-loaded.
The pattern was somewhat more common in technology companies, smaller companies, companies granting options to more executives and directors, and companies with higher stock price volatility.
Volatility is especially significant: 29% of companies with high volatility appear to have manipulated grant dates, compared to 13% of those with low volatility.
But Apple makes clear that Jobs was directly involved in some instances of backdating.
The investigation "found that CEO Steve Jobs was aware or recommended the selection of some favorable grant dates." The committee hastens to add that Jobs "did not receive or financially benefit from these grants or appreciate the accounting implications." In other words, he didn't recommend backdating his own option grants.
And he never cashed in those options because they were replaced in 2003 by a grant of restricted stock.
CEOs at other companies have been forced to resign for such activities. His job may be saved by the fact that he did not directly profit.
The settlements cost companies and their executives, auditors and advisers a combined .3 billion, Audit Analytics said.The Big Number: 181 That’s the number of legal cases stemming from alleged stock-option backdating.The legal fallout from the stock-option backdating scandal that surfaced in 2006 is over, and the price tag was high, according to an analysis by Audit Analytics.The scandals also changed how stock options are granted, making them less popular as a form of compensation and pushing companies to become stricter about their procedures, according to Robin Ferracone, chief executive of compensation consultant Farient Advisors.“The process and paperwork behind this has gotten much more rigorous,” Ms. Backdating litigation was often consolidated into class actions or brought by shareholders on behalf of the company.