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while completing my Masters of Science in Accounting & Taxation at the University of Hartford.Given the recent resurgence of news relating to options backdating, I thought I’d reprint the paper for those who might be interested.But I think the second question is the more important one: Even if this is going on, why do we care?The article suggests that backdating is tantamount to executives stealing from shareholders, and that, because it gives recipients “a paper gain right from the start” it has no useful incentive effect. I found this discussion interesting, because it showed how, invasive as reform proposals might seem to skeptics, the reformers are telling us you ain’t seen nothing yet: federal rules prescribing the independence of the whole board; prohibitions on board compensation; more shareholder democracy.

While there are legal ways to backdate stock options, as we found, few companies can properly account for backdated options.(According to the “Options Scorecard,” here, there are 115 companies under investigation one way or the other.) The current stage seems to involve the slow but steady defenestration of numerous senior company officials.An October 17, 2006 list is only a couple of days old, it is already out of date, because it omits the recent departures from KLA-Tencor (here and here), Altera (here), Sapient (here) and Safe Net (here).By my count, more than 40 executives have lost their jobs so far. These circumstances have to be uncomfortable for executives at companies undergoing options timing investigations.Both investors and the individuals themselves have to be wondering about the executives’ continued tenure.

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