Hopefully, this is a sign of just how desperate things have become. California Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer -- who would normally disagree with President Bush over the color of milk -- has appealed to him to put his weight behind HR 3574, or the "Stock Option Accounting Reform Act." Joining her in the request was California Rep. Anna Eshoo.
We've written about this bill before. By "reform," it clearly means "cave to the whining special interests," and it's an effort to get around the Financial Accounting Standards Board's (FASB) long-overdue decision in favor of expensing stock options. Despite passing the House, the bill stalled in the Senate, where it's likely to die mostly because of the courage of Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). He chairs the Senate Banking Committee and rightly believes that the lawmakers and the bureaucrats are the last people on earth who should be telling corporate America how to manage its ledgers.
So, earlier this week, members of the familiar coalition of the greedy, which includes egregious options-granters such as Qualcomm
Here's hoping the president ignores them.
Much has already been written about this flawed attempt to thwart FASB's decision. It's likely to make options reporting less useful than the current minimum requirement of stashing the information in the footnotes. To review the bill's most hair-raising features:
- It pretends that options issued to the top 5 officers are the only ones that matter.
- It seeks to minimize the true cost of options by arbitrarily setting the volatility used in calculating their worth to zero.
- It gives companies a 3-year, post-IPO grace period during which options expenses can be hidden.
- It exempts pre-IPO options from expensing.
This last one is good for giggles:
- After ruthlessly gutting the board's recommendations with the aforementioned verbiage, it makes the cheerful reassurance that FASB's independence and authority remains intact. (Thanks for the parole, Warden, but can you loosen these handcuffs?)
In the end, there may not be much to worry about. This is probably just a final effort by Boxer and Eshoo to look good for their constituencies. But Foolish investors, who should always be interested in the free flow of accurate information, should remain vigilant.
For more Foolish options commentary:
- The Best Stock Options Model
- FASB: Ready to Rumble
- The Stock Option Travesty
- Stock Options' Perverse Incentives
- Rebutting Stock Option Defenders
Seth Jayson is accustomed to being called a commie whenever he speaks in favor of fair, full, and timely information about the capital markets. At the time of publication, he had positions in no company mentioned. View his stock holdings and Fool profile here. Fool rules are here.