As one of the first companies to comply with the impending rule requiring the treatment of employee stock options as an expense, IBM might reasonably have expected a pat on the back. Instead, its reward is an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company announced on Monday that it was cooperating with an informal SEC investigation into its financial reports for the first quarter ended March 31, in which IBM had expensed stock options, even though at the time the rule was not due to go into effect until June 15. (Implementation has since been delayed by another six months.) IBM said that it had been informed by the SEC that the investigation was not an indication that the company had violated any laws, and an IBM spokesperson said that they had no reason to believe that the financial statements or their treatment of stock options was inaccurate.According to published reports, the focus of the SEC's investigation was the way that IBM disclosed its expensing method, with some suggesting it might have been misleading. The company took a charge of 10 cents a share for options, while analysts had expected 14 cents.
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