Ernst & Young’s Stand on Options Displeases High-Tech Clients

Last week Ernst & Young weighed in on the issue of expensing stock options and in the process upset its high-technology clients. The Big Four accounting firm reversed its previous opinion, notifying the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) that it now believes employee stock options should be expensed.

Ernst & Young audits 46 of Silicon Valley’s 150 largest companies. High-technology firms, which routinely use employee stock options, have been vocal in their opposition to expensing the options. Until now, Ernst & Young had agreed with its Silicon Valley clients. The accounting firm’s change in position has caused some firms, most notably Intel, to speak out.

An Intel spokesperson said that the company was disappointed that Ernst & Young took a new stand on the issue without first consulting with its clients, according to a Feb. 15 article in the San Jose Mercury News. Even so, none of the high-tech firms are ready to call it quits with their auditor.

To head off possible new option rules, 33 high-tech companies voluntarily pledged last year to disclose more information about stock options on a quarterly basis. Currently, such disclosure is required once a year.

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