This study extends the employee stock option literature by examining the impact of accrual management, before and after stock option exercise, on the timing of sales of shares acquired at exercise. We find evidence that accrual management prior to exercise is positively associated with the decision to quickly sell shares after exercise, facilitating a short-term exercise-and-sell strategy. Alternatively, we find that, among executives initially choosing to hold at exercise, tax incentives appear to drive both post-exercise accrual management and the timing of sale transactions. Specifically, our results suggest that executives use income-increasing accruals during the holding period to bolster their stock option gains sand then sell immediately after satisfying the minimum (twelve month) holding period for long-term capital gain treatment. These results provide context for prior research that found evidence of earnings management leading up to option exercise on the expectation of an immediate sale.

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