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The dates had been disclosed before, but only in mailed-in filings that no one ever looked at.
To corporate America, the new rule was a minor hassle; to a first-year New York University finance professor named David Yermack, it was a new source of interesting data.
Although he's been with the company since 1993, Mezger has held the top job for five months, taking over in November after longtime CEO Bruce Karatz resigned amid a stock-options backdating scandal.
Yermack began examining stock prices before and after options grants, and found the eerily consistent pattern displayed (in updated form) in the chart on this page: The average company's stock price dropped in the days before its CEO was given a bushel of options, and rose afterward.
Executive options are usually granted "at the money" - i.e., if the stock is at , the CEO gets options to buy it for a share - so getting options on a bad day for the stock is good news for the recipient.
Yermack figured that this wasn't just luck, and theorized that companies were timing their grants to precede good-news announcements and follow negative ones.
His findings began making the rounds in 1995, sparked a flurry of interest among finance and accounting scholars, and were published in The Journal of Finance in 1997.