Free

At the Friday night dump…

Late on a summer Friday, when companies dump all sorts of stuff in their routine filings, video game maker Activision (ATVI) disclosed in this 8-K that the SEC had launched an informal investigation into its stock option grants. The stock is down over 5% this morning on the news. But the 8-K provided few details about Activision’s stock grants and unlike a lot of other companies, Activision has not been mentioned much in the WSJ’s excellent coverage of the growing scandal. Indeed, the only real hint that Activision faced some problems with options came from an analyst who warned about this two weeks ago.

Luckily, the proxy, which Activision also filed late Friday (according to the SEC site, the proxy was filed mere seconds before the 8-K at 17:22:01) provided a few more details. By reading the footnotes to the summary comp table, you can see that over the past three years, CEO and co-chairman Robert Kotick and director and co-chairman Brian Kelly each received large grants of options. But the grants took place on different days — two in late April and another in late June. A quick skim of Activision’s closing price for those days shows that the stock was clearly down, making the timing beneficial, though it was not at the low point for the year. For example, the largest grants was made on April 29,2004, when the stock closed at $8.06 (adjusted for splits), down from the $8.70 a share it had closed at the day before. Why the moving dates? Activision’s proxy doesn’t really explain. But chances are that’s a question that’s part of the informal investigation.