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Lie Study Puts Him In Limelight

Erik Lie had become accustomed to bored looks when discussing his academic research, which has addressed such weighty questions as, "which provides a stronger earnings signal in big corporate share buybacks, a Dutch auction or a fixed-price offering?" "Most people find most of the stuff I do very obscure," says the 37-year-old Norwegian, who teaches finance at the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA. Not any more. The unassuming academic, who first came to the U.S. as a student in 1988, suddenly has become a minor celebrity in the financial world, thanks to a paper he published last year. It suggested companies might be backdating stock-option grant dates to enrich their senior executives. The study didn't name any firms, but it drew regulators' interest and proved prescient. In recent weeks, a growing options scandal has led to announcements of earnings restatements, resignations and expanding federal probes. About 20 companies are under the microscope of the Justice Department, the Securities and Exchange Commission or both.

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