As corporate America gears up for the presumptive move to expense options, chipmaker Intel ( INTC) continues to loudly protest the accounting shift. With exquisite timing, the giant chipmaker revealed Wednesday that it more than doubled the number of options awarded to CEO Craig Barrett in 2003 vs. 2002. The news came the same day the Financial Accounting Standards Board
unveiled a preliminary rule that would force companies to more openly disclose the cost of options. But amid Intel's bluster on the issue -- including Barrett's defiant op-ed piece in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal -- the company has quietly made other moves that seem calculated to reduce investor concerns about its options program. According to an annual filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Wednesday, Intel will ask shareholders at its May 19 annual meeting to OK a new option plan that lasts only two years, rather than 10. The move aims to give stock owners more reviewing power over the company's compensation program. Intel's new options plan also would allow for a "very limited use" of restricted stock as compensation, according to the filing. Spokesman Bill Calder said the company had inserted the language to give it maximum flexibility and that it might use restricted stock "in some instances such as a critical external hire." The fact that Intel would consider even a limited use of stock is worth noting for a company that has so publicly championed the use of options. But in the same proxy filing, Intel's board gave the thumbs-down to a shareholder proposal requiring the company to expense options. The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America Pension Fund, which owns 110,000 shares of Intel, requested a vote on options-expensing at the company's annual meeting. A similar proposal was defeated by Intel's shareholders last year.