Intel May as Well Restate Earnings

Hope the headline didn't spook you too much. After all, we're not talking about a real earnings restatement, are we? That depends on what you think of options expenses, whether or not they're real -- yes, that whole thing again.

Blame the slow news day, but for some reason, Intel's (Nasdaq: INTC  ) 10-Q filing is drawing plenty of headlines today. Specifically, the understimulated news media are shining their klieg lights on the footnote that explains the costs of the firm's pricey options policy. Last quarter, options expenses would have dropped the firm's earnings per share from $0.27 to $0.22, almost 20%.

Let me be the first to say "Ha ha!" It could not have happened to a more deserving company. Intel, after all, is a leader in the group of outspoken options-expensing opponents. In May, CEO Craig Barrett and the rest of Intel management told the company's owners that expensing options on the income sheets would make financial statements less accurate. Instead, Barrett and Co. prefer to leak out the true costs in SEC filings delivered with no fanfare, so few will notice. Unfortunately, they'll be able to behave like this for the foreseeable future.

Last month, Washington lobbying efforts on behalf of serial options-granters such as Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO  ) , Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) , and Juniper (Nasdaq: JNPR  ) convinced our spineless representatives to avoid the advice of the accounting profession and continue their anticapitalist charade, restricting the flow of real information to investors in the name of "economic growth." (Meanwhile, a little computer enterprise called Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) has long since given up on options and the related financial chicanery.)

The familiar nonsense and scare tactics -- "Options don't really cost anything," or "Estimating their value is too difficult," and "Expensing options will stifle entrepreneurship" -- are still as wrong-headed as ever. They are driven by pure greed. My colleague Bill Mann has the math -- and the mouth -- to explain this again and again.

So, if you're a fan of true capitalism, where businesses provide complete information to their owners, enjoy this brief burst of sunlight. If you're an Intel shareholder who believed in the $0.27 per-share earnings figure, sorry to burst your bubble. If you're a member of the Intel board, or one of those gullible House members who voted for the Baker Bill, I hope you suffer this brief burn, and I hope there's worse for you down the road.

For more Fool options opinion:

Fool contributor Seth Jayson is uppity about options because he's an investor writing for other investors. He has no position in any firm mentioned. View his Fool profile here.


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