The following two items appeared on the Internet concerning the GAAP requirement to expense stock options. WASHINGTON, D.C.—February 17, 2005 Congressman David Dreier (R–CA), Chairman of the House Rules Committee, and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D–CA) reintroduced legislation today that will preserve broad-based employee stock option plans and give investors critical information they need to understand how employee stock options impact the value of their shares. “Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted for legislation that would have ensured the continued ability of innovative companies to offer stock options to rank-and-file employees,” Dreier stated. “Both the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) continue to ignore our calls to address legitimate concerns about the impact of FASB’s new standard on workers’ ability to have an ownership stake in the New Economy, and its failure to address the real need of shareholders: accurate and meaningful information about a company’s use of stock options.” “In December 2004, FASB issued a stock option expensing standard that will render a huge blow to the 21st century economy,” Dreier said. “Their action and the SEC’s apparent lack of concern for protecting shareholders, requires us to once again take a firm stand on the side of investors and economic growth. Giving investors the ability to understand how stock options impact the value of their shares is critical. And equally important is preserving the ability of companies to use this innovative tool to attract talented employees.” “Here We Go Again!” by Jack Ciesielski (2/21/2005, http://www.accountingobserver.com/blog/2005/02/here-we-go-again) On February 17, Congressman David Dreier (R–CA), and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D–CA), officially entered Silicon Valley’s bid to gum up the launch of honest reporting of stock option compensation: They co-sponsored a bill to “preserve broad-based employee stock option plans and give investors critical information they need to understand how employee stock options impact the value of their shares.” You know what “critical information” they mean: stuff like the stock compensation for the top five officers in a company, with a rigged value set as close to zero as possible. Investors crave this kind of information. Other ways the good Congresspersons want to “help” investors: The bill “also requires the SEC to study the effectiveness of those disclosures over three years, during which time, no new accounting standard related to the treatment of stock options could be recognized. Finally, the bill requires the Secretary of Commerce to conduct a study and report to Congress on the impact of broad-based employee stock option plans on expanding employee corporate ownership, skilled worker recruitment and retention, research and innovation, economic growth, and international competitiveness.” It’s the old “four corners” basketball strategy: stall, stall, stall. In the meantime, hope for regime change at your opponent, the FASB.
(a) What are the major recommendations of the stock-based compensation pronouncement?
(b) How do the provisions of GAAP in this area differ from the bill introduced by members of Congress (Dreier and Eshoo), which would require expensing for options issued to only the top five officers in a company? Which approach do you think would result in more useful information? (Focus on comparability.)
(c) The bill in Congress urges the FASB to develop a rule that preserves “the ability of companies to use this innovative tool to attract talented employees.” Write a response to these Congress-people explaining the importance of neutrality in financial accounting and reporting.