2003 Options & Pensions: An Early Survey There are two seemingly eternal issues in financial reporting. One: how does low-brow reporting of options compensation distort performance results? Two: how does pension accounting distort performance results? These questions haunt investors and analysts each year at annual report season, when the disclosures about the two accounting vexations are most plentiful. A look at the top 150 companies in the S&P 500 yields some intriguing answers. Those 150 companies - less than a third of the total 500 - comprise over 70% of the entire group's total market capitalization. All of them have some form of stock compensation and 120 of them have defined benefit pension plans - so it's a fairly representative group of the larger whole. The early findings? The popularity of options compensation has waned as you might have expected - but restricted stock is gaining in popularity. More compensation in all forms is what counts, apparently, and not just the form of more compensation. As for pensions, assets rebounded handily in 2003, thanks to a bull market and hefty contributions - but pension obligations continued to grow unabated.