Title:

Kind
Code:

A1

Abstract:

A computer implemented system for calculating a settlement price for a Model Option contract, a new type of option that contains a settlement right at a price that is determined by a specified valuation methodology comprising an option pricing model and input values necessary to run the option pricing model.

Inventors:

Thomas, Bruce Bradford (Trumbull, CT, US)

Application Number:

12/321225

Publication Date:

05/28/2009

Filing Date:

01/20/2009

Export Citation:

Primary Class:

Other Classes:

707/999.104, 707/999.107, 707/E17.044

International Classes:

View Patent Images:

Related US Applications:

Primary Examiner:

NORMAN, SAMICA L

Attorney, Agent or Firm:

BRUCE BRADFORD THOMAS (TRUMBULL, CT, US)

Claims:

1. **1**-**3**. (canceled)

4. A computer-implemented information system operative for calculating a theoretical value for an option contract that contains a right to settle said option contract with an option seller at a price that is determined by a specified valuation methodology that contains a description of an option pricing model and input values necessary to run said option pricing model, comprising a computer and a data storage device storing software in a computer readable medium that runs on said computer and calculates said theoretical value for said option contract by performing the steps of: a. constructing a lattice of possible underlying asset prices to the expiration of said option contract; b. calculating an intrinsic value at each node of said lattice; c. calculating a settlement price at each said node by implementing said option contract's specified valuation methodology; d. selecting said intrinsic value at each ultimate node as an ultimate nodal value; e. backwardly inducing from each said ultimate nodal value a provisional penultimate nodal value at each penultimate node; f. selecting the greater of said provisional penultimate nodal value, said intrinsic value, or said settlement price at each said penultimate node as a nodal value for each said penultimate node, g. backwardly inducing a provisional nodal value for each previous node in said lattice from each succeeding node's nodal value and selecting the greater of said provisional nodal value, said intrinsic value, or said settlement price at each said previous node as said previous node's nodal value; h. continuing this process until a nodal value has been determined for each node in said lattice; and i. selecting said lattice's first nodal value as said theoretical value of said option contract.

5. The computer-implemented information system of claim**1** wherein said possible underlying asset prices are developed using a binomial lattice.

6. The computer-implemented information system of claim**1** wherein said possible underlying asset prices are developed using a trinomial lattice.

4. A computer-implemented information system operative for calculating a theoretical value for an option contract that contains a right to settle said option contract with an option seller at a price that is determined by a specified valuation methodology that contains a description of an option pricing model and input values necessary to run said option pricing model, comprising a computer and a data storage device storing software in a computer readable medium that runs on said computer and calculates said theoretical value for said option contract by performing the steps of: a. constructing a lattice of possible underlying asset prices to the expiration of said option contract; b. calculating an intrinsic value at each node of said lattice; c. calculating a settlement price at each said node by implementing said option contract's specified valuation methodology; d. selecting said intrinsic value at each ultimate node as an ultimate nodal value; e. backwardly inducing from each said ultimate nodal value a provisional penultimate nodal value at each penultimate node; f. selecting the greater of said provisional penultimate nodal value, said intrinsic value, or said settlement price at each said penultimate node as a nodal value for each said penultimate node, g. backwardly inducing a provisional nodal value for each previous node in said lattice from each succeeding node's nodal value and selecting the greater of said provisional nodal value, said intrinsic value, or said settlement price at each said previous node as said previous node's nodal value; h. continuing this process until a nodal value has been determined for each node in said lattice; and i. selecting said lattice's first nodal value as said theoretical value of said option contract.

5. The computer-implemented information system of claim

6. The computer-implemented information system of claim

Description:

This application is a continuation of pending nonprovisional patent application Ser. No. 12/008,581 filed Jan. 11, 2008 entitled “Model Option Contracts” by the present inventor, and claims the benefit of the filing date of patent application Ser. No. 10/757,933 filed Jan. 15, 2004, entitled “Model Options,” by the present inventor.

Not Applicable

Not Applicable

This invention relates to a computer system for settling option contracts.

Option contracts give the holder a right to buy or sell property at a specified price, called the strike or exercise price, within a given period of time. The life of an option is called the contract's term and is determined by the expiration date of the contract. The payment that is exchanged for this right is called the option premium. If the option holder does not exercise his right prior to the contract's expiration, the option expires worthless.

Having the right but not the obligation to buy or sell property at some prespecified price is valuable. This is why option buyers are willing to pay option sellers a premium for this right. Since options derive their value from the price of the underlying assets they are considered derivatives.

An option's value can be thought of as having two primary components. The intrinsic value is the value that an investor would get if she immediately exercised the option. This is the difference between the current price and the exercise price and is also described as “moneyness.” If the option has a positive intrinsic value, it is said to be “in-the-money.” “Deep in-the-money” options refer to options that have a substantially positive intrinsic value.

The second component of an option's value results from how likely and in what direction the intrinsic value of the option is expected to change over the life of option. This is known as the “time value” of an option, and it is a function of the underlying asset's propensity to change in value and the remaining life of an option.

Although many options expire without value, most options that are in-the-money are bought or sold, rather than exercised. This is because exercising an option early forfeits the remaining time value of the option. Also, exercising an option and converting it into the underlying property destroys the financial leverage that options enable.

Options are beneficial because they allow the holder to gain financial leverage by buying just the portion of the underlying property that the holder believes is desirable. For example, a speculator who believes that a particular stock will rise to $60 within the next three months from its current price of $50 has a choice of buying the underlying stock or call options on the stock.

Assuming that the speculator has $5,000 to invest and a three-month option to buy one share at a strike price of $50 cost $3.58, the speculator can buy either 100 shares of the stock or purchase 1,396 options to buy the stock. The call options are significantly cheaper than the stock because they are only valuable if the stock price increases above $50 per share during the next three months.

If the speculator is correct and the stock price increases to $60, she will make $1,000 if she purchases the stock. She will make $8,962 if she purchases the options ($60−$50=$10 per share increase times $1,396 options=$13,960 less the option premium of $4,998). Thus, it can be seen that it is much more financially efficient for the speculator to buy options than to buy the underlying stock.

Exchanges facilitate the trading of options on stock, commodities, currencies, and debt instruments. An exchange can be a physical location or an electronic mechanism where trading takes place. Exchanges may be set up and function in many different ways. For example, they can act as a counterparty between buyers and sellers or they can merely provide information that enables buyers and sellers to trade directly with one another.

Although options can be traded directly between two individuals or companies, this rarely happens in practice. This is because exchanges assist in the price discovery process and provide a valuable role in minimizing credit risk.

Options are used in many different ways. Speculators use options to bet on the underlying property increasing or decreasing in value over some specified period of time. Assuming a speculator believes that the underlying property's price will decrease, she may purchase a put option, giving her the right to sell that property to the option seller at a pre-specified price. Conversely, if she believes that the price will increase, she may desire to purchase a call option that will give her the right to buy the property from the option seller at a pre-specified price.

Many investors use options to hedge or offset the risk of some component of their portfolio. For example, a stockholder who is concerned that stock prices may fall dramatically might buy put options and sell call options to limit the potential loss of value. Similarly, manufacturers may desire to hedge price increases or decreases associated with their raw material inventories.

There are three main ways in which the exercise feature of options is generally structured. American style options enable the holder to exercise the option at any point prior to the expiration date. European style options only enable the holder to exercise the option on the expiration date. Burmudian options may be exercised at any one of various pre-set points during the life of the option.

Companies routinely grant options as compensation (i.e. compensation options) in exchange for work or other services. This is commonly referred to as an “incentive stock option” since it is often granted to corporate managers and employees as a means of motivating them to achieve certain financial and operational objectives. Compensation options are usually granted at a strike price that is at the price of the underlying stock on the grant date and these options often vest over a period of future employment such as three or four years. In addition, incentive stock options usually have much longer terms than exchange traded stock options.

A number of mathematical models have been developed to determine the theoretical value of an option. The first of these models to achieve widespread acceptance was the Black and Scholes Option Pricing Model which was introduced in 1973. This model is predicated upon the following assumptions: the stock pays no dividends; European exercise terms are used; markets are efficient; no commissions are charged; interest rates are known and constant; and returns are lognormally distributed. Since each of these assumptions can be debated, this model has been modified over time, and other models have been developed to correct certain perceived weaknesses of the Black and Scholes Model.

For example, the Binomial Model breaks down the time to the expiration of an option into discrete intervals. At each interval, the stock is assumed to increase or decrease by a certain amount based on its volatility and time to expiration. In effect, this produces a tree of potential stock prices over the life of the option with each branch representing a possible path that the stock price could take during the remaining life of the option. Probabilities are then applied to each path to produce the expected value of the option.

Although a number of option price models have been developed since the Black and Scholes Model, this Model is still widely used due to the fact that it can be calculated faster than some of the newer models that require far more calculations. Calculation speed is critically important because market prices can change very quickly, and even the most advanced computers may have trouble calculating theoretical values fast enough to keep up with these changes.

Despite the different techniques that they employ, the models require essentially the same inputs to create an option's theoretical value. These inputs are: whether the option is a put or call, the current stock price, the exercise price, the time to expiration, the risk-free interest rate, the dividend rate, and the volatility of the underlying stock.

Despite new and improved option pricing models, there is still significant uncertainty about what the value of an option is. This uncertainty is resident before the contract is entered into and extends until the date the contract expires, at which point the theoretical value and the market value converge.

Actual option prices may vary significantly from the theoretical values of the option pricing models due to a lack of liquidity. Thin trading may impede price discovery and allow for greater pricing imperfections. This may cause significant pricing distortions on options that do not trade very much such as options on smaller companies, option contracts with expiration dates greater than one year, and deep out-of-the-money contracts.

However there are significant differences between the model values and the market values even when options are heavily traded. Proponents of option pricing models naturally assume that these differences are caused by different market participants using different assumptions about the inputs to those models.

Since the current stock price, the exercise price, and the time to expiration are fixed, these parameters are not subject to dispute. While the risk-free interest rate and the dividend rate may change, these values do not generally change enough over short-periods of time to cause big changes in option values.

Thus, the parameter most in dispute is the volatility of the underlying stock. Historical volatility can vary significantly based on how the calculation is done and by how many days of historic price changes are used to derive this number.

One can take the current market value of an option and the other less contentious model inputs described above and substitute volatilities into the model until it produces a theoretical value that is equal to the market value of the option. This number is called “implied volatility.” In essence, implied volatility is how market participants reconcile actual option prices with the theoretical values derived from the models they use.

One way to describe the difference between historical volatility and implied volatility is to say that market participants think the historical experience of a stock's price changes were abnormal. In effect, they think that the historical experience was more or less volatile than what will happen over the future life of the option.

For those participants who believe that their chosen option pricing model adequately describes the value of an option, implied volatility may be useful for reconciling the model with the market. However, this number is not very meaningful for deep in or out-of-the-money options, where extraordinary amounts of volatility are required to change the option value by relatively small amounts of money.

Given-how useful they can be, options are not employed nearly as much as they should be. There are several fundamental reasons why options are not used more.

First, option calculations are relatively complicated and difficult for the average investor to understand. The learning curve is steep for most investors, and the details of option usage are difficult to explain to the uninitiated. This lack of understanding makes many investors uncomfortable with using options.

Second, since most options are traded on exchanges, option prices are subject to market distortions which may prevent even the most astute observers from being able to use them effectively. While there is significant trading of stock options at or near-the-money for the largest companies, there may be little or no trading of deep out-of-the-money options on those stocks. Moreover, there is not much liquidity for options that extend beyond one year or for options on the stocks of smaller companies either.

Third, although theoretical models of option valuation may help provide some insight into the pricing of options, they are also problematic. There are now many models to choose from, each with some subtle difference, each meant to address some theoretical problem. Despite all of the advances, there are still significant differences between the model prices and the market prices of options. Such differences are confusing to investors. Either the models are wrong or the market is wrong, but how is the investor to know which is right?

Forth, since there is not much of a market for long-duration options such as incentive stock options, one cannot compare the model valuations to the market valuations for such options. Thus, one cannot even demonstrate that the models work as well in such situations as they do on contracts with lesser expiration dates. This is problematic given that current accounting treatment requires companies to ascribe a fair value to incentive stock options.

Meanwhile employees may not attribute much or any value to the options that they are granted because they have may not have fully vested, typically have no intrinsic value, and cannot be sold. Moreover, most employees have no understanding of option valuation models.

Fifth, the trading cost of using options can impair the use of deep out-of-the-money options. This is because the expense of trading such options gets too large in relation to the expected value of such options.

Ultimately option usage is curtailed because people do not understand how they work and they are suspicious that the price of options may be incorrect, regardless of whether it is derived from an option pricing models or the market. In effect, the degree of moneyness, company size characteristics, and near-term expiration dates all limit the potential size of the options market and in turn limit its usefulness to investors.

The object of the invention is a method that enables companies and individuals to employ the financial leverage and theoretical characteristics of options without being bound by the limitations and imperfections of the traditional option market. Model Option Contracts objectify the uncertainty associated with the pricing of options using an agreed value approach. Model Option Contracts help expand the usefulness of options by enabling participants to easily understand the components of option valuation and to provide ready and continuous access to option pricing, even when there is no active options market.

In the case of compensation options, where the contract is granted in exchange for work or other services, companies and employees can use Model Option Contracts to bridge the gap that exists between the option expense that the grantor must recognize in its books and records and the value that employees think the option grants have. To a large extent this “valuation gap” is caused by the holder's inability to see a ready market price at which someone will buy the option from them so they tend to ignore the time value of the options granted.

Since most compensation options are granted with little or no intrinsic value, assessing the time value of the options granted is critically important to understanding the overall value of these options. By structuring the option as a model option, the company creates a price that is visible to the grantee of how much the options are worth. Using this business method, companies can provide their employees with continuous prices at which they may sell their options back to the company.

With Model Options, buyers and sellers no longer need to be wary of long-duration, or deep out-of-the-money options. They can confidently employ options to help them gain financial leverage because they can be confidant that thin markets and poor liquidity will not distort prices.

Since price discovery is not necessary for Model Option Contracts, buyers and sellers can trade without the need for a traditional market such as an exchange. By alleviating the need for options to be traded on an exchange, option usage can be significantly expanded and trading costs can be reduced. This is especially true for deep out-of-the-money options where the expected value of such options may be less than the transaction fees. The current market-based approach to option pricing discourages trading of such options because the fees are static and participants would have to pay trading fees that are too large in relation to what the underlying options are worth to be economical.

Model Option Contracts facilitate option trading on small company stocks. Currently, options exchanges are not interested in such trading because it does not represent a significant amount of transaction volume, and the cost of such activity is not worth their trouble. Conversely, market participants generally steer away from such trading due to fears of pricing distortions and the potential for manipulation.

Model Option Contracts can be priced continuously, enabling interim settlements of value. This is a helpful means of reducing counter-party credit risk. For example, buyers and sellers could agree that they will make interim payments to one another for increases and decreases in the value of an option once a given counterparty's liability exceeds a certain threshold.

Unlike traditional options, Model Option Contracts can be structured so that they do not allow the holder to force delivery of the underlying asset. Instead, the parties can structure a Model Option Contract so that the holder is only able to demand a cash payment from the option seller at a price that is determined by the valuation methodology that is embedded in the option contract.

This feature reduces transaction costs and may be especially useful when option traders have no real interest in transferring the underlying property but just want to profit or minimize losses associated with changes in value of that property. For example, many option holders are not interested in converting the option into the underlying property (in the case of a call option) or transferring the underlying property to the option seller (in the case of a put option).

Another useful feature of Model Option Contracts is that each of the component parts of option valuation is specifically identified. This characteristic makes it possible for option participants to trade each of the underlying components of an option separately. For example, option buyers and sellers could structure Model Option Contracts so that they are effectively only trading just the volatility component of an option, or just the dividend yield component.

Further objects and advantages are to increase the use of options by making their values more understandable and more reliable and by making them more cost-effective to trade. Other objects and advantages will become apparent from a consideration of the ensuing description and drawings.

A Model Option Contract (“Model Option”) is a new type of option contract that gives the holder the right to settle the contract by selling it back to the option seller at a price determined by a valuation methodology that is specified in the contract. In effect, this is a way of embedding a put option into an option contract since the option holder has the right to put the option contract back to the option seller for a cash value via a settlement right that is specified in the option contract.

Constructing a Model Option Contract requires specification in the contract of: basic option terms such as whether it is a put or call, the underlying asset, a strike price, an expiration date or contract term, and the type of exercise that is allowed (American, European, etc.); the additional right to settle the contract by selling it back to the option seller; and a valuation methodology that will be used to determine the value of this additional right.

The additional right to settle the contract by selling it back to the option seller during the life of the contract may be structured in countless ways. A Model Option Contract may give the option holder the right to sell the contract back at a preset point or points. It may grant this right continuously over the life of the contract. A Model Option Contract may give this additional settlement right continuously over the life of the contract unless certain specified events occur. Alternatively, the contract may only give this right only upon the occurrence of certain specified conditions.

In the case of options used as compensation, personal conditions pertaining to the holder might be specified such as age, disability, loss of a loved one, etc. Alternatively, certain corporate conditions might trigger this right or prevent the holder from exercising this right including the possibility of a hostile takeover, the company's bankruptcy filing, or the advent of some other financial event. Other more general conditions that might be used to trigger this additional settlement right or nullify it would include changes in market indicia such as volume of trades, interest rate changes, etc.

The valuation methodology employed in a Model Option must include a description of an option pricing model (such as the Black and Scholes, the binomial, etc.) and how the input values necessary to run the option pricing model will be derived (i.e., the risk-free rate of interest, the volatility of the underlying asset price, the dividend rate, etc.). An information system is necessary to implement the valuation methodology given the complexity of the mathematical calculations employed and the need for accuracy and computational speed.

Model Option Contracts can be used in many different ways in conjunction with the market for traditional options or even when there is no market for traditional options on the underlying asset or over a specific time horizon.

FIG. 1 is a table comparing the important contractual features of a Model Option with a traditional option.

FIG. 2 demonstrates that the time value of the settlement price of a Model Option may be significantly different than the time value of a traditional option even when that option is on a very large company's stock and the traditional option is actively traded.

FIG. 3 is a flowchart that shows how a buyer and seller might use this business method to construct and execute a Model Option Contract and determine its settlement price.

FIG. 4 is a flowchart that shows how a company might use this business method to construct a Model Option Contract used for compensation purposes and determine its settlement price.

FIG. 5 is a flowchart that shows how an exchange could use this business method to construct and trade a Model Option Contract and determine its settlement price.

The following detailed description discloses various embodiments and features of the invention. These embodiments and features are meant to be exemplary and not limiting.

The definitions provided below are to be applied to their respective terms or phrases as used herein unless the context of a given particular use of a given term or phrase clearly indicates otherwise.

The term “contract owner” refers to the owner of the Model Option Contract (also referred to as a “Model Option”).

The term “right to settle” and “settlement right” refer to the Model Option Contract owner's right to settle the contract by selling it back to the party that sold them the Model Option Contract.

The term “settlement price” refers to the price at which the Model Option Contract owner may settle the contract by selling it back to the option seller.

The term “basic option terms” refers to the terms that must be included in an option contract. These terms are a standard part of any option contract and include such things as whether the option is a put or call, a description of the underlying asset, the strike price, the expiration date or contract term, and the holder's ability to exercise the option (American, European, Bermudian, etc.). Basic option terms may be described in the Model Option Contract itself or might include such specification by referencing the terms of another option contract.

The term “specified valuation methodology” refers to the valuation methodology that is described in a Model Option Contract and used to determine the settlement price. The specified valuation methodology included in a Model Option consists of two parts: a description of an option pricing model; and a description of how each of the input values, necessary to run the option pricing model, will be derived.

The term “option pricing model” refers to any recognized and accepted mathematical model that is used to develop the theoretical value of an option. Black and Scholes, Whaley, Binomial Lattice, Trinomial Trees, and Merton's Jump Diffusion are examples of option pricing models models. At least one option pricing model must be specified in a Model Option Contract, as such a model is used to determine the settlement price of a Model Option. More than one option pricing model may be specified in a Model Option Contract so long as it is clear under what circumstances each model will be used and how each model will be used to determine the settlement price.

The term “input values” refers to each of the values that that are required to run the option pricing model that must also be included in the specified valuation methodology such as the risk-free rate of interest, the volatility of the underlying asset price, the dividend rate, etc. These values would not be determinable from the Model Option contract wording if it were not for the description in the specified valuation methodology. The other values necessary to run the option pricing model are obvious based on the contract wording that specifies the basic option terms.

The term “information system” refers to one or more computers, servers, input devices, output devices, data storage devices, telecommunications equipment and software. Information systems may communicate with other information systems via telecommunications means, such as the Internet. Information systems may also communicate with persons via input/output devices. Persons may communicate with other persons using information systems.

The term “compensation option” refers to an option that a company grants in exchange for work or other services.

The term “company” refers to any organization that is set up to make profits and includes stock companies, partnerships, limited liability companies, etc.

The term “exchange” refers to a place or mechanism that facilitates the trading of options. An exchange can be a physical location or an electronic mechanism where trading takes place or where information about trading is provided. An exchange may act as counterparty between buyers and sellers or it can merely provide information that enables buyers and sellers to trade directly with one another.

The term “personal property” includes corporeal personal property and incorporeal personal property.

The term “corporeal personal property” refers to commodities, animals, furniture, collectibles, merchandise, inventory, etc.

The term “incorporeal personal property” refers to financial instruments and intellectual property.

The term “financial instrument” includes any type of equity security, debt instrument, or derivative contract.

The term “equity security” refers to any ownership interest in a company including common stocks, preferred stocks, partnership interests, interest in a limited liability corporation, etc.

The term “debt instrument” refers to any evidence of indebtedness such as bills, notes, bonds, certificates of deposit, banker's acceptances, commercial paper, etc.

The term “derivative contract” refers to any contract that derives its value from an underlying financial asset, index or other type of investment including futures, forwards, index-linked securities, etc.

The term “intellectual property” refers to any intellectual property right such as patents, copyrights, trademarks, etc.

The term “real property” refers to land and all property attached to the land such as trees, buildings, and improvements.

An overview of the differences between a Model Option and a traditional option is shown in FIG. 1. The table shows that the basic option terms that must be specified in a traditional option must also be specified in a Model Option.

In a traditional option, the option holder may be able to exercise the option and force delivery of the underlying asset at any time, at set intervals, or only at the expiration of the contract. Model Option Contracts may be structured in a similar fashion, but they may also be structured so that they do not permit the delivery of the underlying asset.

This additional limitation is possible because the Model Option holder also has a right to settle the contract by selling it back to the option seller at a settlement price that is determined by using the specified valuation methodology. There is no such right in a traditional option.

The value of a traditional option is determined by the market price for the underlying asset (the intrinsic value) or the value at which the option contract can be traded to another party, assuming that the option holder has the right to trade the contract and that there is some other party willing to buy the contract. Because Model Option Contracts give the option holder an additional right to settle the contract by selling it back to the option seller, the value of a Model Option is also determined by the specified valuation methodology incorporated within it. This feature enables an option holder to capture the time value of an option regardless of whether there is a third party willing to buy the option or whether the option holder has the right to sell the contract to a third party.

This feature of a Model Option Contract is operable because it includes a specified valuation methodology will be used to determine the contract's settlement price. As shown in the table in FIG. 1, traditional options do not include this information.

The specified valuation methodology must state what option pricing model will be used and must include a description of how each of the unobvious inputs to the model will be determined. For example, it is clear whether an option is a put or a call, what the strike price is, and what the contract term is based on the contract wording. However, it may not be obvious what to use as the other inputs to the option pricing model.

The specification for these inputs to the option valuation model may be described by stating a fixed value, a formula, or a reference to some other metric. So long as it is definite how these inputs will be determined, the Model Option Contract will be legally valid and the parties will be able to determine the settlement price.

Assuming for example that the underlying asset is a stock and the parties have agreed to use the Black and Scholes Model, they also need to agree on what values they will use for the risk-free rate, the dividend rate, and the stock's price volatility. They could agree to use fixed values for each of these inputs or to agree on a formula that will determine these values. For example, they may agree to use the 90-day US Treasury bill yield on the valuation date as the risk-free rate, the last dividend payment annualized as a percentage of the current stock price as the dividend rate, and the annualized standard deviation of the daily change in the underlying stock's price over the preceding 30 trading days as the volatility.

There are countless ways of specifying each of these input values. For example, the volatility input to the Black and Scholes Model could be specified as a fixed value such as 30%, it could be specified as a formula that captures the underlying asset's historical price variations, it could be specified as a formula that captures the historical price variations of some other indicia that serves as a proxy for the underlying asset; and it could also specify a formula and then increase or decrease that number to some degree. If the underlying asset is a tech stock, the historical volatility of a tech stock index might be referenced. One could also specify the volatility input by describing a formula that would calculate implied volatility for the underlying asset or some other relevant benchmark.

The buyer and seller must agree on how to structure the Model Option Contract's right to settle. They may agree that the option holder (the buyer) will have this settlement right continuously over the life of the contract, at each important point between inception and expiration, or at the contract's expiration. They may also agree that this right is only present if certain conditions are met, as more fully described above in the Summary section.

Another feature of a Model Option that distinguishes it from a traditional option is that, by manipulating the valuation methodology, the time value can be decoupled into its component parts. This enables options traders to trade each component value separately. If for example they were only interested in hedging or speculating about the volatility or the dividend rate it would be much more effective and efficient to trade just that component of an option's value.

FIG. 2 compares the time value of a General Motors put with a strike price of $30 and an expiration date of Jun. 18, 2005 with the time value of the settlement price of a Model Option with similar basic option terms. The Model Option Contract specified that the right to put the contract back to the option seller would be valued by using the Black and Scholes option pricing model; that 2.8% would be used as the risk-free rate (this was the three month Treasury yield at the beginning of the contract); that 6.25% would be used as the dividend yield; and that the volatility input to the model would be based on the preceding year's stock price movements.

Volatility was calculated by taking the standard deviation of the log value of the ratio of daily price change in GM stock for the preceding 252 trading days and multiplying that number by the square root of 252. This calculation was updated each day based on the price changes in the underlying stock over the preceding 252 days.

Despite the fact that the time value of the settlement right in the Model Option and the time value of the traditional option move in similar directions and end up with the same value at expiration, the paths they take to this destination are different. The traditional option's time value is determined by the option market's perception of where General Motor's stock would be by the expiration date. The time value of the Model Option's settlement value is based on various input factors, the most important of which is the historical volatility of the underlying stock price. As the expiration date approaches, the time value of both options diminishes to the point where it becomes inconsequential.

Based on the chart one can see that the difference between the two options' time value would have been significant to both of the parties. The average difference over this time horizon, measured in terms of the initial price of the option, was 60%, but there were eleven days when the difference was over 100%.

This difference is the result of the prevailing market opinion that GM's stock price would fall over this period. To account for this sentiment in terms of an option model, one would say that “implied volatility” of the traditional option was much higher than historical volatility that was used to value the settlement right of the Model Option. However, since the settlement right of the Model Option is based on the historical price volatility, it never incorporates this current market bias.

The Model Option that was specified in this example was used for illustrative purposes only. The volatility input value specified in the Model Option might have been expressed in many different ways, and some of these ways might have made the cash settlement feature of a Model Option worth more than the traditional option. In this case, the volatility input value of the Model Option would be greater than the volatility implied by the market.

An overview of how a buyer and seller might use this method to construct and execute a Model Option Contract and determine its settlement price is shown in FIG. 3. To enter into a Model Option Contract, a buyer and seller must first specify and agree on the basic option terms in the form of a contract **1**.

Next, the buyer and seller must include a provision in the contract that gives the option holder the right to settle the contract by selling it back to the option seller at a settlement price determined by a specified valuation methodology that uses an option pricing model **3**.

If they can agree on these terms then the buyer will pay the seller an option premium in exchange for the specified contract **4**. If they are unable to agree on the basic option terms, the settlement right, the valuation methodology, and the option premium, they will not enter into a Model Option Contract **2**.

Finally, an information system is used to determine the settlement price **5**. An information system is necessary to implement the valuation methodology and run the option pricing model given the complexity of the mathematical calculations employed and the need for accuracy and computational speed. In practice, both the option seller and the option holder may use their own information systems to perform this calculation. Knowing the price at which the contract can be sold, the option holder may decide to exercise the settlement right and sell the Model Option Contract back to the option seller.

FIG. 4 is a flowchart showing how a company would use this business method to grant a compensation option and how it would determine the settlement price of the Model Option it conveys. First, the company specifies basic option terms in the form of a contract **1**. Next the company specifies in the contract that the contract holder will have the right to settle the contract by selling it back to the company at a settlement price determined by a specified valuation methodology that uses an option pricing model **3**. This is more fully described above in the Summary section and in the description pertaining to FIG. 3.

If the company is satisfied with all of these terms, it grants the Model Option to another party in return for future services **4**. If it is not satisfied, it does not grant the Model Option 2.

Assuming a grant is made, an information system is used to determine the settlement price using the specified valuation methodology **5**. An information system is necessary to implement the valuation methodology and run the option pricing model given the complexity of the mathematical calculations employed and the need for accuracy and computational speed.

The process shown in FIG. 4 is very similar to the one shown in FIG. 3, but it more accurately describes the process as pertaining to the development, issuance, and valuation of a unilateral contract devised to compensate another party for services. In practice, companies typically specify that such contracts are “vested” over some future period of time.

Companies use vesting to ensure that the grantees only get the full value of the option over a period of months or years of future service. Also, options used for compensation are not typically transferable to a third party, further limiting the rights of the grantee to capture the full time value of the option grant. Each of these contractual limitations may also be employed in Model Options that are constructed as compensation options.

FIG. 5 shows how an exchange would construct a Model Option Contract, list it for trade, match buyers with sellers, store transaction information and determine a settlement price for the contract. First, the exchange must specify basic option terms in the form of a contract **1**. Next it must specify in the contract that the contract holder will have the right to settle the contract by selling it back to the option seller at a settlement price determined by a specified valuation methodology that uses an option pricing model **3**. This is more fully described above in the Summary section and in the description pertaining to FIG. 3.

Although the exchange is solely responsible for the development of the Model Option Contract, in practice, it will solicit feedback from its members and other option users to determine the features that are most attractive and acceptable. In effect, the specifications of each contract would be predetermined by the exchange, and the buyer and seller would merely agree to trade a particular contract that is listed by the exchange. This eliminates the need for a buyer and seller to agree on each term individually.

The exchange uses at least one information system to list the Model Option Contract for trade, match buyers with sellers, effectuate the option purchase and sale, and to store the transaction information **4**. If the exchange is not able to develop satisfactory terms, it does not list or exchange the Model Option Contract **2**.

If the exchange is able to list and transact a Model Option Contract, an information system is necessary to implement the specified valuation methodology and determine the settlement price **5**. An information system is necessary to given the complexity of the mathematical calculations employed and the need for accuracy and computational speed.

Depending on the functions that the exchange performs, it may be a counterparty on each of the trades or it may only facilitate trade between its members. Either way, determining this price is very valuable from a risk management perspective since it enables parties to monitor and manage their counterparty credit risk.

Although three basic ways of constructing a Model Option Contract and determining its settlement price are described above, Model Options can be structured in countless ways by changing the underlying asset that is referenced, the strike price, the expiration date, the option holder's ability to exercise the option, the option holder's right to settle the contract by selling it back to the seller, and the valuation methodology employed.

Model Option Contracts can reference any type of real or personal property. With Model Options, the contract can eliminate the option holder's ability to force delivery of the underlying asset since the contract holder can force the contract seller to pay the specified cash payment to extinguish the contract. Model Options can be structured so that each component of option valuation may be traded separately.

Additionally, Model Option Contracts can be structured so that they form one or more provisions in some other type of contract, such as a purchase and sale agreement, a lease, an equity or security, instrument of indebtedness, a futures contract, a forward contract, an annuity, etc.

From the description above it should be clear that this method of constructing an option contract and determining a settlement price satisfies many purposes that can not be accomplished by constructing and valuing options in the traditional way. Incorporating a specified valuation methodology and a settlement right into an option contract makes option valuation more understandable, more certain, and less costly. Model Option Contracts help expand option usage by permitting buyers and sellers to use options in ways that are currently impossible.

Model Option Contracts eliminate the need for the price discovery function of an exchange. This enables trading on small company stocks, on long-duration options, and on deep out-of-the-money options that is not possible presently due to a lack of liquidity, and concerns about the potential for pricing distortions and manipulation.

Model Option Contracts eliminate the importance of small speculators to the price discovery process. This, in turn, lessens the importance of the credit risk management function that large exchanges provide. Absent the need for a price discovery function and a credit risk management function, it is possible for smaller exchanges consisting of large credit-worthy participants to trade Model Option Contracts with much lower transaction costs.

Model Option Contracts permit the buyer and seller to agree that the contract will never be exercised in the traditional way by forcing delivery of the underlying asset. This prevents unnecessary trading since the buyer can receive value without having to force delivery of the underlying asset or engage in other trading to close out or rebalance a given trading position.

By reducing transaction costs, it becomes feasible for large institutions to buy and sell deep out-of-the-money Model Option Contracts that have very small expected values. Currently, such trading is infeasible because, at a certain point, the cost of trading exceeds the expected value of the options.

By using Model Option Contracts as compensation for services (a compensation option), companies and individuals can gain the benefits of financial leverage while gaining certainty over the expense and the value associated with these options.

By agreeing to a specific formula for determining an option's value, investors can use Model Option Contracts to create more precise hedges.

Using Model Option Contracts, investors can disaggregate each of the component values of an option's price and trade each of these values separately. This is impossible with traditional options.

Although the description above contains certain specifics, these should not be construed as limiting the scope of the invention but as merely providing illustrations of some of the presently preferred embodiments of this invention. This methodology can be applied in many ways to all types of options, on all types of assets and can be used on options that are traded on exchanges or between two parties directly. Thus the scope of the invention should be determined by the appended claims and the legal equivalents, rather than by any particular example described above.