This paper uses a market valuation model to explore why firms grant employee stock options. When insider managers and outside investors have different opinions about the future prospects of the firm, employee stock options can be used to capture future investor overvaluation and to save employee compensation costs. Options can enhance the stock value for existing shareholders if the difference in opinion is highly volatile. The equilibrium option grant is positively correlated with both the perception error of investors, and the volatility of this error, as well as the correlation between investors 19 error and firm fundamental value. The model provides implications on the cross-sectional differences in option grants, and these implications can be examined empirically.
Wang, Jun and Zhang, Ge, "Heterogeneous beliefs and employee stock options;" (2003). Department of Economics and Finance Working Papers, 1991-2006. Paper 5.