On November 29, 2021, the SEC issued accounting guidance on the recognition and disclosure of “spring-loaded awards” made to executives. A spring-loaded award is a share-based compensation arrangement where a company grants stock options or other awards shortly before it announces market-moving information such as an earnings release with better-than-expected results or the disclosure of a significant transaction. The SEC new guidance and scrutiny is not unexpected following the re-opening of the comment period on proposed rules on listing standards for the recovery of erroneously awarded executive compensation (“Clawback Rules”) (see HERE) and proposed new rules on share repurchase programs and stock trading plans (blogs coming soon on each of these).
According to the new SEC accounting bulletin prepared by the SEC’s Office of the Chief Accountant and the Division of Corporation Finance, non-routine spring-loaded grants merit particular scrutiny by those responsible for compensation and financial reporting governance at public companies. In particular, it is the SEC’s