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It’s not quite as risk-free as the original scheme, but it comes close. Indeed, the researchers identify several techniques by which companies appear to nudge share prices in the directions they want.Using conservative assumptions, Daines and his colleagues estimate that the new maneuvering provides an average extra payout of just over 0,000 per CEO.It’s been a decade since scores of corporations became embroiled in the “dating game” scandals over backdated CEO stock options, and most people thought that reforms in the aftermath ended the problem years ago. Daines of Stanford University, has unearthed a new and potentially more sinister version of the scheme — call it Dating Game 2.0 — that replaced the original.Daines is the Pritzker Professor of Law and Business at Stanford Law School and a senior faculty member at the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Center on Corporate Governance, which is a joint initiative of the law school and Stanford Graduate School of Business.In Dating Game 2.0, however, many top executives appear to be reaping the same kinds of windfalls with a new variant on the original scam.Instead of manipulating the dates of option grants to match a dip in the stock price, companies appear to be manipulating the stock price itself so that it’s low on the predetermined option date and higher right afterward. “But we tested for all kinds of benign explanations and none of them fit the data.It was especially deep, however, at companies that were also hard to value and where company announcements and “guidance” could have a big impact on investor expectations.Think here of a fast-growing technology company, where it’s difficult to predict the exact pace of future growth and where the statements of top management can significantly influence investor expectations.
In effect, this pattern allows top executives to buy low and sell high.
In “bullet-dodging,” a company temporarily depresses its stock price by releasing negative information before the option-grant date.