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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Spring-loaded Options Trap

Spring-loading vs. bullet dodging; why SAS-70 audits are so different; gauging your financial style; more bondholder backlash; the return of the travel agent; why companies still have so much cash; and more.

Options timing is clearly the cause du jour of federal regulators -- and the terror of executives. After announcing investigations into dozens of companies this past summer, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice filed charges against former executives at Brocade Communications Systems and Comverse Technology, sparking what most expect to be an ongoing volley (see On the Record).

While investigators continue to focus on backdated options, companies may well be nervous about regulators' interest in related practices known as spring-loading (timing grants to come ahead of good news) and bullet-dodging (offering them after bad news), both of which aim to capture presumed lows in stock prices for the options' strike prices. Last November, Analog Devices spent $3 million to settle spring-loading charges with the SEC. Cyberonics is still under investigation for issuing options to top officers following Food and Drug Administration approval of a new product but before the market opened. Many others, including Home Depot and Merrill Lynch, have been tainted by The Wall Street Journal' s recent revelations that abnormally large numbers of options were issued soon after the tragedies of September 11.

posted by Brian Moran @ 11:48 AM   0 comments

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