Lieberman and Expensing Employee Stock Options

Dean Baker reminds us of another reason why Joseph Lieberman was one of my least favorite Senators:

Joe Lieberman played an important role in laying the basis for the accounting scandals of the stock bubble era. Senator Lieberman’s role dates back to 1993. This was the year when he led the charge against the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) in its effort to require firms to treat stock options as an expense against profit. At the time, companies were able to issue stock options to employees and treat them on their books as though the options had no cost. FASB had become concerned because of the rapid growth in the use of stock options, especially in the tech sector. After carefully examining the issue, FASB issued new rules requiring that options be treated as an expense. Senator Lieberman led the counterattack, arguing that the new rules would depress stock prices. (Interesting thought – how can accurate accounting depress stock prices?) Lower stock prices would damage the tech sector and cost jobs. Lieberman managed to push through an 88-9 vote on a non-binding Senate resolution opposing the change. FASB got the message and backed down on its proposed rules change. The rest is history … There may not have been a single person in the state of Connecticut who voted against Senator Lieberman yesterday because of his harassment of FASB. Other issues loomed larger. But those who think that honest accounting is essential to the working of the economy might believe that some justice was done in this election.

I’m not sure where Lamont stands on this issue, but for all of those who think of Lieberman as John McCain’s ally in bipartisanship – remember that Senator McCain wanted to allow FASB to do its job without the political influence of the Lieberman Lobbyists. And where did George W. Bush stand on this issue? Oh yea – he wanted to give corporations the option as to whether to follow the recommendations of FASB or not properly reporting the expense from employee stock options.