To avoid having to pay higher taxes, many companies adopted a policy of issuing “at the money” stock options in lieu of additional income, with the idea that the executive or employee would benefit through the option by working to increase the value of the company without exceeding the one million dollar deductibility cap for executive income.
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.
As most of you know, the Comverse criminal case has had a certain amount of drama surrounding former CEO Kobi Alexander, who was first a fugitive from justice, and later was located after he took up residence in Namibia, where he is presently fighting extradition to the United States.
The SEC and other federal authorities are currently investigating more than 50 companies suspected of illegal, undisclosed options backdating practices, and the first criminal charges relating to these practices are expected shortly.
The practice of backdating options is not illegal as long as it is disclosed to shareholders.
the much different – and more financially beneficial – tax rules that apply when issuing “at the money” or "out of the money" stock options.
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.