I note with some alacrity that the silliness over stock-option expensing continues. We've gotten used to the permablather that comes from the American Electronics Association (AeA) and Craig Barrett at Intel
This, for example, from the head of domestic policy at the AeA is almost precious: "This is going to be Lobbying 101." Lawmakers "are sitting around screaming and almost in hysteria over offshoring, and here they are with this provision making the cost of American labor even higher.'' Apparently, "Lobbying 101" is code for "lying about stuff" at the AeA. Because an accounting change -- one of measurement -- doesn't make anything more expensive or less expensive. This statement is absolute foolishness. I know it, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) knows it, and I suspect that even the folks at the AeA know it. There is no economic difference in choosing whether to expense something or not.
There is either economic substance to stock options or there is not. A change in measurement doesn't change this fact. I'm sympathetic to discussions about how to measure options. Goofy statements about option expensing being anywhere equivalent to offshoring are made only by folks hoping to incite hysteria among the ignorant.
So the statements that came from Phillips Smith, chairman of Taser
Focus on that last line, because it's central to the "don't expense" argument. It suggests that options are created from nothing, that they're costless. Well, heck, if that's the case, why on earth is Taser so darn stingy with 'em? Give 'em out to everyone. They're free! We can cure all the ills of the world. Let's just give out options.
But they aren't. These are pieces of the company being handed out. They are also assets, which, though difficult to measure, are not valueless, even at the time they're granted. Smith, just like a long line of folks who oppose expensing, is using the argument that a change in measurement is going to change his (and thousands of start-up companies') behaviors. Isn't it a sign of what this is really about that a noneconomic change will alter their behavior? If options are so valuable to companies, if they are so necessary to attract talent, then why in the world would they dare change their behavior unless there is a real, tangible economic impact?
We're just talking about measurement, folks. Not taking food out of the mouths of babies, not ending entrepreneurship as we know it. Not stealing from the working class. Measurement, and making accounting fair.
Want to play your part? Go to RestoreTheTrust.com and tell your representatives and senators that you would like Congress to leave the accounting to the experts at the Financial Accounting Standards Board.
Bill Mann owns none of the companies mentioned in this story. Surprised?