The search engine world's rock star is pushing the envelope again. In an intriguing twist, Google
Rather than holding options until they want to exercise the right to buy Google stock at a discount, employees will be able to transfer their options to the highest-bidding institutional investor.
Leave it to the "don't be evil" company to offer up the tools to allow employees who are rich on paper to cash in, rather than risk a share price meltdown and grow disgruntled. However, one also has to consider that if employees just start flipping options the moment they vest, they may not be providing the long-term incentive they were meant to inspire.
Google rocked the market when it went public in the summer of 2004 and chose to go with a quasi-auction format that allowed individual investors to get in on the fun. Those who bought in at the time are probably feeling pretty smug if they held on to their shares, as Google stock has appreciated fivefold since its $85 IPO.
The company notes that instituting this program by the second quarter of next year will likely result in higher stock-based compensation expenses. Oh, and in case you're feeling cynical, this isn't an exit strategy for the Google bigwigs. Executives at the company can't participate in the program, and only options granted after the IPO are eligible for the new online marketplace.
But wait a minute here. Google and Morgan Stanley are going through all of this trouble to create an online tool for employees to unload vested stock options? That seems like a whole lot of trouble for something so simple -- unless this is part of a service that may eventually be rolled out to other companies.
We already have Google Checkout, a threat to eBay's
Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz is a huge fan of Google, and it would be his home page if it weren't for Fool.com taking up that piece of real estate. He does not own shares in any of the companies in this story. Rick is also part of the Rule Breakersnewsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has adisclosure policy.