In 1972, a new revision (APB 25) in accounting rules resulted in the ability of any company to avoid having to report executive incomes as an expense to their shareholders if the income resulted from an issuance of “at the money” stock options.
In essence, the revision enabled companies to increase executive compensation without informing their shareholders if the compensation was in the form of stock options contracts that would only become valuable if the underlying stock price were to increase at a later time.
If the document is putting in place something which “should have been done” but hasn’t been, usually for tax or similar reasons, then the position is straightforward.
For example, if a seller had sold his house in December then the seller could have taken advantage of certain tax benefits.
Because the backdated options’ strike price is lower than the market price on the actual grant date, the recipient has received something of greater monetary value (even if the options have not yet vested) than a correctly dated at-the-money option. Companies could reward executives with cash compensation or additional properly dated and priced incentive awards, including options, rather than engage in dubious backdating practices. It is clear that there must be reasons other than greed that have led so many to backdate executive options. Academics, regulators, and practitioners alike have tried to gain a better understanding of these incentives and the roles they have played in the backdating scandal; however, there is as of yet no consensus regarding the causes of backdating. This is problematic because policy, legislative, or regulatory changes are unlikely to be effective if the root causes are unknown. In 2008, the long-term capital gain rate for individuals in the lowest two tax brackets (currently 5% and 15%) was further reduced to zero.
Corporations, however, have defended the practice of stock option backdating with their legal right to issue options that are already in the money as they see fit, as well as the frequent occurrence in which a lengthy approval process is required.
I am sure that from time to time we have all come across the vexed question of backdating documents.
A client or, in the case of an in house lawyer colleague (who for the purposes of this article will also be considered a client), asks you to prepare a document and then your heart sinks as he says “oh and it has to be dated” and gives a date which has already passed.
In certain circumstances tax credits claims can be backdated.
This section of the website provides information about when claims can be backdated as well as links to HMRC guidance about the backdating process.
Both sets of motivations arise from the quantitative and qualitative benefits, costs, and risks of issuing and receiving backdated options. Certain AMT may be carried forward and applied to reduce the general tax payable in subsequent years (to the extent that the general tax exceeds the tentative alternative minimum tax liability for the subsequent year).