SEC Signals Possible Guidance on Options Expensing

The Securities and Exchange Commission's Chief Accountant Don Nicolaisen said Wednesday that while he fully supports the Financial Accounting Standards Board's decision to require stock option expensing, the SEC is realizing it may have to issue guidance to aid compliance, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

Speaking to reporters at an internal controls conference at Stanford Law School on Wednesday, Nicolaisen said the commission is hearing corporate cries for help on how they should go about counting employee stock options as expenses.

"We are sympathetic to some of the requests people have for implementation guidance" over some nuts and bolts of the new rule, he said, citing assumptions about stock volatility, a factor in valuing options as an example.

The SEC has not yet deciding if it will put out guidance, but the commission does fully support the FASB's action on the stock option expensing issue, he said.

"The decision has been made; they are an expense," he said. He further backs the FASB's move to have the new rule take effect in the second half of this year.

The FASB issued a final rule last month to require expensing, a move that will decrease earnings significantly at heavy issuers of options. Supporters say the move will result in more accurate financial statements and a truer accounting of the cost to a company of issuing options, Dow Jones reported.

Opponents don't agree. They say options aren't a real cost and that the move will discourage issuance of options and thus hurt rank-and-file employees who benefit from them. The opponents have vowed to continue the fight in Congress, Dow Jones reported.

Nicolaisen said the SEC is "sensitive to all of the discussions around stock options," when asked about the opposing viewpoint.

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