This excerpt taken from the WSM DEF 14A filed May 9, 2008.
Why does the company want to implement an exchange program?
The company wants to implement an exchange program to restore the retention and incentive benefits of our equity awards. The exchange program also will better align the value associated with the compensation expense the company has booked and will continue to book in the future for these awards.
Our stock price, like that of many other companies in the retail and home-related industries, has declined significantly in the past few years. We and other home goods retailers have been impacted by the downturn in the housing market and declining consumer confidence, as well as other macro-economic factors. We believe the decline in our stock price, and similar declines in the stock prices of our peer companies and in stock indices such as the S&P Retail Index (RLX) and the PHLX Housing Sector Index (HGX), reflect investor concerns over the housing crisis and a possible recession.
As a result of these factors, many of our employees hold options and/or SSARs with exercise prices significantly higher than the current market price of our common stock. As of March 31, 2008, 100% of outstanding stock options and SSARs granted after January 2004 that were held by our eligible employees were underwater. These underwater awards may not be sufficiently effective to retain and motivate our employees to enhance long-term shareholder value. We believe the exchange program would provide employees a meaningful incentive that is directly aligned with the interest of our shareholders and would restore the lost retention value of the equity compensation of such employees.
The exchange program also will have the added benefit of reducing the overhang represented by the outstanding eligible awards. Further, the exchange program will help to remedy the fact that we are obligated to recognize compensation expense for the underwater awards, even though they are not providing their intended incentive and retention benefits, which we feel is not an efficient use of the companys resources. Currently, the fair value associated with outstanding underwater options and SSARs granted after January 2004 (other than those granted to the members of our Board of Directors and our named executive officers) is approximately $65 million. Since the exchange program is structured to replace underwater awards with restricted stock units of similar or lesser value, the company will recognize no additional compensation expense. The only compensation expense we may
incur would result from fluctuations in our stock price during the period the exchange program is open (that is, during the period between the time the exchange ratios are set, shortly before the exchange program begins, and when the exchange actually occurs), which we expect to be immaterial. As a result, the exchange program will allow the company to realize real incentive and retention benefits from the restricted stock units issued, while recognizing essentially the same amount of compensation expense as we would have recognized for the eligible awards.