FASB's Plans Regarding the Accounting for Employee Stock Options

Norwalk, CT, July 31, 2002—The accounting for employee stock options has received renewed attention in recent months. Over the past few weeks there have been two important developments.

  1. Several major U.S. companies have announced their intentions to change their method of accounting for employee stock options to an approach that recognizes an expense for the fair value of the options granted in arriving at reported earnings. We understand that a number of other companies also are considering adopting that method. The FASB applauds those companies because recognizing compensation expense relating to the fair value of employee stock options granted is the preferable approach under current U.S. accounting standards (FASB Statement No. 123, Accounting for Stock-Based Compensation). It also is the treatment advocated by an increasing number of investors and other users of financial statements. When the FASB developed FAS 123 in the mid-1990s, the Board proposed requiring that treatment because it believed that this was the best way to report the effect of employee stock options in a company’s financial statements. The FASB modified that proposal in the face of strong opposition by many in the business community and in Congress that directly threatened the existence of the FASB as an independent standard setter. Thus, while FAS 123 provides that expense recognition for the fair value of employee stock options granted is the preferable approach, it permitted the continued use of existing methods with disclosure in the footnotes to the financial statements of the pro forma effect on net income and earnings per share as if the preferable, expense recognition method had been applied. Until now, only a handful of companies elected to follow the preferable method.


  2. The International Accounting Standards Board (IASB) has concluded its deliberations on the accounting for share-based payments, including employee stock options, and announced plans to issue a proposal for public comment in the fourth quarter of 2002. That proposal would require companies using IASB standards to recognize, starting in 2004, the fair value of employee stock options granted as an expense in arriving at reported earnings. While there are some important differences between the methodologies in the IASB proposal and those contained in FAS 123, the basic approach is the same—fair value measurement of employee stock options granted with expense recognition over the vesting period of the options.


The FASB has been actively working with the IASB and other major national standard setters to bring about convergence of accounting standards across the major world capital markets. The Board has been closely monitoring the IASB’s deliberations on share-based payments and urges all interested parties to submit comments to the IASB on its proposal once it is released later this year. Additionally, the FASB plans to issue an Invitation to Comment summarizing the IASB’s proposals and explaining the key differences between its provisions and current U.S. accounting standards. The FASB will then consider whether it should propose any changes to the U.S. standards on accounting for stock-based compensation.

In the meantime, in response to requests by companies considering switching to the preferable method under FAS 123, the FASB also plans to consider at its August 7 public meeting whether it should undertake a limited-scope, fast-track project relating to the transition provision in FAS 123. Literally applied, the existing transition provision in FAS 123 would require companies that elect to change to the preferable method to do so prospectively for stock options granted after the date of the change. This transition provision was appropriate when FAS 123 was issued in 1995 because, at that time, companies did not have valuation information available relating to previous grants of employee stock options. However, that is no longer the case given the disclosure requirements that have now been in effect since 1995 under FAS 123.

About the Financial Accounting Standards Board

Since 1973, the Financial Accounting Standards Board has been the designated organization in the private sector for establishing standards of financial accounting and reporting. Those standards govern the preparation of financial reports and are officially recognized as authoritative by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Such standards are essential to the efficient functioning of the economy because investors, creditors, auditors and others rely on credible, transparent and comparable financial information. For more information about the FASB, visit our website at

The Financial Accounting Standards Board

Serving the investing public through transparent information resulting from high-quality financial reporting standards developed in an independent, private-sector, open due process.