Hansen Natural (NASDAQ:HANS), the company behind the Monster Energy brand of energy drinks, finds itself in a precarious situation these days, despite having a lot going for it. The stock price is prone to 6% swings in either direction on the slightest bit of news, as nervous investors try to figure out what to do with the embattled market darling.

On the one hand, Hansen is undergoing one of those accounting reviews of options-granting practices dating as far back as 1996. Two weeks ago, a letter came in from the SEC, informing Hansen's management of an informal inquiry on the subject, and the company promptly set up its own internal investigation.

The company has lots of company in this uncomfortable position, with normally very respectable companies like Apple Computer (NASDAQ:AAPL), UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH), and Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE) restating former results, delaying quarterly filings, or even cutting loose members of top management over options problems. But it's worth noting that the review at Intuit (NASDAQ:INTU) found no evidence of wrongdoing, and the SEC closed its investigation of that company at the end of October.

So, not every review finds misconduct, but investors have a healthy distrust of companies that appear to have resorted to accounting shenanigans to compensate their board members, executives, and employees. The quicker Hansen can clear its good name -- or, conversely, swallow the bitter pill of correcting its mistakes and misdeeds -- the better for everyone involved. If nothing else, the common shareholder would certainly like a proper earnings report sooner rather than later, along with corrected financial statements for any period affected by incorrectly recorded options grants.

The other shoe
On the other hand, what we do know about Hansen's Q3 results is rather spectacular, exactly the kind of quarter we have become accustomed to from the energy-drink specialist. Net sales grew 69% year over year to $178.5 million, and that's without the full benefit of Hansen's Anheuser-Busch (NYSE:BUD) distribution deal, which is still ramping up across the country. Hansen has built up inventory levels significantly to ensure that the channel will remain properly fed, even with the much fatter pipes of Anheuser-Busch's renowned chain-of-supply system.

Hansen makes a few other products besides the Monster Energy line of caffeine-laced semi-sodas, but the fruit smoothies and all-natural juices don't hold a candle to Monster's powerful revenues. The popularity of energy drinks might be a fad, but if so, it has had legs for quite a while now and doesn't appear to be trailing off anytime soon. Privately held Red Bull is still the market leader, with nearly $2 billion in worldwide annual sales as of 2004 according to Hoovers, but Monster is stealing U.S. market share on a daily basis, and I see no reason why the brand couldn't travel well to other countries, too.

All together now
As a fairly new shareholder, I remain confident in Hansen's prospects in the mid- to long term, and won't be selling anytime soon. The options review could lead to financial restatements, but it's hard to imagine that correcting the backdating or springloading of the occasional grant would overcome the operational excellence and proven brand power the company has going for it. Still, for the reasons mentioned above, I'd love to see the investigation concluded as soon as possible, regardless of the outcome. And I am a bit disappointed that it would come to this -- I used Hansen as an example of stock options done right only a few months ago. You can do better, Hansen.

Further Foolishness:

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Fool contributor Anders Bylund is a Hansen Natural shareholder but holds no other position in any of the companies discussed here. Well, he does have a season pass to Busch Gardens. You can check out Anders' holdingsif you like, and Foolishdisclosureis always good for a pick-me-up.