This paper investigates the market reaction to announcements by firms of their decision to adopt the fair value provisions of SFAS No. 123 in accounting for their employee stock option (ESO) expense. Additionally, this paper examines ESO usage and expense of adopting firms and compares the impact of the expense on profitability measures for adopting firms relative to a matched set of control firms. We find a positive and significant abnormal return in the three days around the adoption announcements, suggesting that the decision to expense using the fair value method is value relevant. The positive abnormal announcement returns are mainly attributable to the earlier announcements, consistent with early announcements serving as a credible signal of a commitment to transparency in financial reporting. We find evidence that in the three years prior to the announcement year, adopting firms report significantly higher earnings than control firms yet fail to earn higher market returns, suggesting that adopters stand to benefit the most by improving the market's perception of their accounting reports. We also find that ESO usage, ESO expense, and the impact of ESO expense on profitability are significantly lower for adopters relative to control firms, although the impact of ESO expense is economically significant for 43 percent of the adopters.

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