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The process of granting an option that is dated prior to the date that the company granted that option.

In this way, the exercise price of the granted option can be set at a lower price than that of the company's stock at the granting date.

The companies with disclosed option backdating problems have booked an additional $5.2 billion in pretax compensation expenses and their collective market value has dropped $5.1 billion since their disclosures.

That figure is based only on the 60 companies that have announced a specific charge they will take to rectify backdating.

Securities and Exchange Commission, the Justice Department, pension funds, shareholders’ attorneys and research groups are now combing through corporate records.