|"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast"
|"The liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth, shall be watered also himself."
-- Proverbs 11:25
Just last week, Léo Apotheker was shown the door after a tumultuous 11-month run atop Hewlett-Packard. His reward? $13.2 million in cash and stock severance, in addition to a sign-on package worth about $10 million, according to a corporate filing on Thursday.
At the end of August, Robert P. Kelly was handed severance worth $17.2 million in cash and stock when he was ousted as chief executive of Bank of New York Mellon after clashing with board members and senior managers. A few days later, Carol A. Bartz took home nearly $10 million from Yahoo after being fired from the troubled search giant.
A hallmark of the gilded era of just a few short years ago, the eye-popping severance package continues to thrive in spite of the measures put in place in the wake of the financial crisis to crack down on excessive pay.
Critics have long complained about outsize compensation packages that dwarf ordinary workers’ paychecks, but they voice particular ire over pay-for-failure. Much of Wall Street and corporate America has shifted a bigger portion of pay into longer-term stock awards and established policies to claw back bonuses. And while fuller disclosure of exit packages several years ago has helped ratchet down the size of the biggest severance deals, efforts by shareholders and regulators to further restrict payouts have had less success.
“We repeatedly see companies’ assets go out the door to reward failure,” said Scott Zdrazil, the director of corporate governance for Amalgamated Bank’s $11 billion Longview Fund, a labor-affiliated investment fund that sought to tighten the restrictions on severance plans at three oil companies last year. “Investors are frustrated that boards haven’t prevented such windfalls.”