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Ethics of options repricing and backdating

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The SEC’s opinions regarding backdating and fraud were primarily due to the various tax rules that apply when issuing “in the money” stock options vs.the much different – and more financially beneficial – tax rules that apply when issuing “at the money” or "out of the money" stock options.

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Fourth, we proceed to an analysis of good corporate governance practice involving backdating options based on a series of ethical standards including: (1) trustworthiness; (2) utilitarianism; (3) justice; and (4) Kantianism.We conclude that while executive compensation schemes (e.g., stock options) were originally intended to help remedy the agency problem by tying together the interests of the executives and shareholders, these schemes may have actually become “part of the problem,” and that the solution ultimately depends upon whether directors and executives accept that all of their actions must be based on a set of core ethical values.Back in 2008, in the wake of the subprime debacle as the financial crisis was affecting every corners of the world economy, equity-based compensation packages of senior executives and traders in financial institutions came under the scrutiny as one possible culprits for the excessive risk-taking behaviors that eventually led to the financial crisis.This way the executive would be granted options with a very low strike price, so that they are quite often already deep in the money.However, it appears that some executives also may have used a different method of backdating options to "cheat" the IRS.What ethical measures need to be taken to address the agency problem?