This paper investigates the relationship between CEO stock options and analysts’ earnings forecast accuracy and bias. A higher level of stock options may induce managers to undertake riskier projects, to change and/or reallocate their effort, and to possibly engage in gaming (such as opportunistic earnings and disclosure management). These managerial behaviors result in an increase in the complexity of forecasting and hence, less accurate analysts’ forecasts. Analysts’ optimistic forecast bias may also increase as the level of stock options pay increases. Because forecast complexity increases with stock options pay, analysts, needing greater access to management’s information to produce accurate forecasts, have incentives to increase the optimistic bias in their forecasts. Alternatively, a higher level of stock options pay may lead to improved disclosure because it better aligns managers’ and shareholders’ interests. The improved disclosure, in turn, may result in more accurate and less biased analysts’ forecasts. Our empirical evidence indicates that analysts’ earnings forecast accuracy decreases and forecast optimism increases as the level of CEO stock options increases. This evidence suggests that the incentive alignment effects of stock options are more than offset by the investment, effort allocation and gaming incentives induced by stock options grants to CEOs.
Review of Quantitative Finance and Accounting – Springer Journals
Published: Mar 12, 2011
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