Video included! When I leave my job, what are the top 10 questions I should ask about my stock options, restricted stock/RSUs, or ESPP participation?
To protect your outstanding grants and prevent problems when you leave your job, you should know the answers to the following questions that apply to you.
1. With stock options, what type of options do I have, and what happens if I terminate my employment before the option grant is fully vested?
2. Will I forfeit my restricted stock or RSUs if my employment ends before the vesting date(s)?
3. How long does the company give me to exercise vested stock options after job termination, and will this cause problems if I have ISOs? Does the reason for termination matter? What are the most common company practices for the treatment of unvested stock options in various types of job termination?
4. What do any severance provisions in your employment agreement cover on outstanding grants of options or restricted stock/RSUs?
5. How does my company treat unvested restricted stock and RSUs in the event of voluntary job termination, involuntary job loss, retirement, disability, or death? Would the treatment be the same for performance shares?
6. If I leave the company and thus end participation in its ESPP, what will happen to the money that has been deducted from my paycheck to purchase ESPP shares?
7. With stock options and restricted stock/RSUs, does vesting stop when I give my notice/resignation or on the actual date of job termination?
8. Will the company withhold taxes from income I receive upon the exercise of stock options or SARs, or upon restricted stock/RSU vesting, even when I am no longer an employee?
9. If my company rehires me, can my prior stock options or restricted stock/RSUs be reinstated? Is there a noncompete that could limit my freedom to work elsewhere or trigger a clawback of past gains?
10. Can a leave of absence be a termination of employment that stops vesting and causes grants to expire?
Alert: In addition, before you leave the company, be sure that you will have continued access to its stock plan website to see your outstanding equity awards and your stock holdings. Confirm that you will be able to follow the same procedures for option exercises (or learn the new ones), and be sure that you will receive the same company notices that you did as an employee. While your company's rules about stock trades may no longer apply after your employment has ended, you still must not trade company stock while you know material nonpublic information, as that would be insider trading.
For stock you own in a private company from an option exercise or restricted stock/RSU vesting, you also want to know the terms of any buyback provisions and repurchase rights that allow your employer to reclaim your shares when you leave.
Got another minute? In just 60 seconds, the myStockOptions editor-in-chief runs through the top 5 things to consider about your equity comp before and after you leave your job:
See also this website's two-part article series on job loss and stock compensation.
Webinar: Negotiating Equity Compensation: How Advisors Can Help Clients, available on demand at the myStockOptions Webinar Channel, features insights from three leading financial and legal advisors, including real-world case studies, about negotiating equity comp in job offers and protecting it at termination.