Every lawyer should be capable of distinguishing legitimate backdating from improper backdating.

On the other hand, if the backdating is intended to fabricate documents to support a transaction that never occurred, in particular to gain a tax advantage for a client, that’s almost always a sign of fraud, experts say.

The Mossack Fonseca files show, according to ICIJ, that the firm’s backdating was so common that a 2007 email exchange between employees proposes establishing a pricing structure — clients would pay $8.75 for each month farther back in time that a corporate document would be backdated.

Backdating allowed executives to choose a past date when the market price was particularly low, thereby inflating the value of the options.

The process was illegal in many cases because documents were forged, the options were not properly accounted for, and the backdating was not clearly communicated to the company’s shareholders.

The Securities and Enforcement Commission and the Department of Justice eventually caught hundreds of companies and individual executives illegally backdating between 20.

Auditors and accountants traditionally view backdating with skepticism.The fixed price at which an employee can purchase stock is supposed to be whatever the selling price was on the day that the option was made available to them.However, some companies manipulated this data by creating documentation to make it look as though the option was granted on a day when the price was very low.That’s because of the stock option backdating scandals and based on rules and standards that consider backdated documents less reliable supporting evidence for financial statement numbers or evidence for an audit.External auditors have been sanctioned and barred from the profession for backdating audit workpapers to deceive regulators into believing audit work was performed before the client’s annual report was published.Companies sometimes give their employees the right to buy shares at a fixed price for a number of years while they are with the company.