Additionally, companies can use backdating to produce greater executive incomes without having to report higher expenses to their shareholders, which can lower company earnings and/or cause the company to fall short of earnings predictions and public expectations.Corporations, however, have defended the practice of stock option backdating with their legal right to issue options that are already in the money as they see fit, as well as the frequent occurrence in which a lengthy approval process is required.Options backdating may still occur under the new reporting regulations, but Sarbanes-Oxley compliant backdating is far less likely to be used for dishonest reasons due to the short time frame that is allowed for reporting.
However, in late 2005 and early 2006, the issue of stock options backdating gained a wider audience.
Numerous financial analysts replicated and expanded upon the prior academic research, developing lists of companies whose stock price performance immediately after options grants to senior management (the purported dates of which can be ascertained by inspecting a company's Form 4 filings, generally available online at the SEC's website) was suspicious.
When company executives discovered that they had the ability to backdate stock option grants, thus making them both tax deductible and “in the money” on the date of actual issuance, the common practice of stock option backdating for financial gain began on a widespread level.
The problem with this practice, according to the SEC, was that stock option backdating, while difficult to prove, could be considered a criminal act 6.
For instance, public companies generally grant stock options in accordance with a formal stock option plan approved by shareholders at an annual meeting.