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Well, Brocade Communications (Nasdaq: BRCD ) has done just that. The company has treated shareholders to a decline in the value of their stock from an adjusted $118 at the peak 10 years ago to $5 per share today. And if that weren't enough, add to it the recent sentencing of former CEO Greg Reyes to 18 months in jail for options backdating.
There now appears to be a major PR initiative across the Internet to convince every reader that Greg Reyes is a great guy. Everywhere I click, I'm told to remember the many philanthropic contributions he's made. I don't know Greg Reyes, and I do suspect he's too much the fall guy for a lot of foul play in options granting -- particularly in Silicon Valley over the past 15 years.
But let's be real. That's no small comfort to the outside shareholders, who are every bit as important as the customers and the employees of a firm. Funny thing, though, that when options granting picks up pace, shareholders seem to be forgotten. The more I have watched this compensation vehicle driven through hundreds of companies, the clearer it is to me that Warren Buffett has it right at Berkshire Hathaway.
I oppose the granting of stock options to any employee at any firm in any industry. Call me a curmudgeon. Say I'm out of touch. But what options have brought to the marketplace is a greater complexity to accounting, a greater obfuscation of the true costs of running a business, and legal and reputational damage to otherwise high-performing companies like Apple, Dell, Broadcom, and United Health (NYSE: UNH ) .
Why shouldn't these businesses simple pay their colleagues top dollar and then invite them to purchase shares like any other buyer in the marketplace?
To me, the fact that any executive like Greg Reyes would kindheartedly advocate for their fellow employees by over sizing or falsely accelerating options grants is just reprehensible.