The debate over whether companies should treat stock options as an expense draws mixed reactions from Washington area businesses, some of which have a lot to lose if the accounting rule changes.
A few prolific stock-option users, including mortgage giant Fannie Mae and credit card company Capital One Financial Corp., already expense options on their financial statements.
Steven C. Mayer, Human Genome Sciences chief financial officer, testified in July before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on proposals for expensing stock options.
(Jay Mallin -- Bloomberg News)
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Monday, 3 p.m. ET: Washington Post staff writer David Hilzenrath and editor Mike Flagg will be online to discuss the 2004 executive compensation survey.
Options, which are a popular recruitment tool, offer employees and top executives alike a chance to buy company stock at a set price and within a specified time. They are also supposed to be an incentive for executives to push up the stock price and benefit investors.
Some of the region's companies, facing cuts in profits or sharper losses if required to account for options as expenses, continue to resist a proposal by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, which sets accounting rules for companies.
The board is drafting a final rule that could take effect as soon as next year.
The backlash is particularly strong at information technology and biotechnology firms that grant options to attract talented workers.
Human Genome Sciences Inc. would have lost $109 million more than the $185.3 million it reported had it treated options as an expense on its books, according to Thomson Research. Steven C. Mayer, the Rockville biotechnology company's chief financial officer, said that if expensing is required, companies will award fewer options to average employees.
"The first person to lose his options is not going to be the CEO," Mayer said. "That first person is going to be an administrative assistant or the guy on the loading dock. I think it is a very misguided attempt to rein in executive compensation using a tool that will, in fact, harm rank-and-file employees."
Lonnie P. Taylor, vice president for federal and state relations at Reston mobile phone company Nextel Communications Inc., made a similar argument in a June 28 letter to the FASB. Nextel's 2003 profit would have been $325 million lower if it had been forced to treat options as an expense, according to Thomson Research.
Both companies award options to all employees.