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Discussion of Financial reporting for employee stock options: liabilities or equity

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Discussion of Financial reporting for employee stock options : liabilities or equity. / Peasnell, Ken.

In: Review of Accounting Studies, Vol. 18, No. 3, 09.2013, p. 683-691.

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debate

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Peasnell, Ken. / Discussion of Financial reporting for employee stock options : liabilities or equity. In: Review of Accounting Studies. 2013 ; Vol. 18, No. 3. pp. 683-691.

Bibtex

@article{7c5e7f5caa784f05ba141dfb98585528,
title = "Discussion of Financial reporting for employee stock options: liabilities or equity",
abstract = "Barth, Hodder, and Stubben examine how the risk and expected return of existing shares varies as a function of the amount of outstanding employee stock options (ESOs), finding that the association is a negative one, consistent with ESOs being equity-like in character. They suggest that their approach could be used to address the question of how best to characterize other complex financial claims. The study is well executed and provides a thought-provoking contribution to the debate. However, it is far from obvious that the {\textquoteleft}{\textquoteleft}debt or equity{\textquoteright}{\textquoteright} question can be solved in this manner. Their approach effectively defines a liability as a financial claim that has characteristics akin to fixed-rate debt. I provide examples of the limitations of this perspective, starting by comparing ESOs that are settled with shares with those settled in cash. Whether a claim is treated as a liability or equity is of little con- sequence if it is simply a matter of balance sheet presentation. The real question is the implications for income measurement. I suggest progress might best be made if we start with Penman{\textquoteright}s proposal that assets and liabilities be separated into oper- ating and financial items, an approach which would include many claims that have equity-like characteristics, such as unvested ESOs, within the operating liability category. Once a claim ceases to be an operating item—e.g. when an ESO vests—the approach suggested in the paper can then be used to determine how it should beclassified.",
keywords = "Employee stock options , Liabilities or equity, Income measurement",
author = "Ken Peasnell",
year = "2013",
month = sep
doi = "10.1007/s11142-013-9236-9",
language = "English",
volume = "18",
pages = "683--691",
journal = "Review of Accounting Studies",
issn = "1380-6653",
publisher = "Springer New York",
number = "3",

}

RIS

TY - JOUR

T1 - Discussion of Financial reporting for employee stock options

T2 - liabilities or equity

AU - Peasnell, Ken

PY - 2013/9

Y1 - 2013/9

N2 - Barth, Hodder, and Stubben examine how the risk and expected return of existing shares varies as a function of the amount of outstanding employee stock options (ESOs), finding that the association is a negative one, consistent with ESOs being equity-like in character. They suggest that their approach could be used to address the question of how best to characterize other complex financial claims. The study is well executed and provides a thought-provoking contribution to the debate. However, it is far from obvious that the ‘‘debt or equity’’ question can be solved in this manner. Their approach effectively defines a liability as a financial claim that has characteristics akin to fixed-rate debt. I provide examples of the limitations of this perspective, starting by comparing ESOs that are settled with shares with those settled in cash. Whether a claim is treated as a liability or equity is of little con- sequence if it is simply a matter of balance sheet presentation. The real question is the implications for income measurement. I suggest progress might best be made if we start with Penman’s proposal that assets and liabilities be separated into oper- ating and financial items, an approach which would include many claims that have equity-like characteristics, such as unvested ESOs, within the operating liability category. Once a claim ceases to be an operating item—e.g. when an ESO vests—the approach suggested in the paper can then be used to determine how it should beclassified.

AB - Barth, Hodder, and Stubben examine how the risk and expected return of existing shares varies as a function of the amount of outstanding employee stock options (ESOs), finding that the association is a negative one, consistent with ESOs being equity-like in character. They suggest that their approach could be used to address the question of how best to characterize other complex financial claims. The study is well executed and provides a thought-provoking contribution to the debate. However, it is far from obvious that the ‘‘debt or equity’’ question can be solved in this manner. Their approach effectively defines a liability as a financial claim that has characteristics akin to fixed-rate debt. I provide examples of the limitations of this perspective, starting by comparing ESOs that are settled with shares with those settled in cash. Whether a claim is treated as a liability or equity is of little con- sequence if it is simply a matter of balance sheet presentation. The real question is the implications for income measurement. I suggest progress might best be made if we start with Penman’s proposal that assets and liabilities be separated into oper- ating and financial items, an approach which would include many claims that have equity-like characteristics, such as unvested ESOs, within the operating liability category. Once a claim ceases to be an operating item—e.g. when an ESO vests—the approach suggested in the paper can then be used to determine how it should beclassified.

KW - Employee stock options

KW - Liabilities or equity

KW - Income measurement

U2 - 10.1007/s11142-013-9236-9

DO - 10.1007/s11142-013-9236-9

M3 - Comment/debate

VL - 18

SP - 683

EP - 691

JO - Review of Accounting Studies

JF - Review of Accounting Studies

SN - 1380-6653

IS - 3

ER -