Thanks to a change in federal rules 18 months ago, it’s now much easier to find out details of so-called “golden coffins,” which are—yes, this is real—posthumous payouts to CEOs that can climb into the hundreds of millions. Brian Roberts of Comcast will receive $298.1 million if he dies in office; Robert Iger of Disney will receive $62.4 million; Ivan Seidenberg of Verizon will receive $43.4 million. Ha ha, life insurance is for paupers!
Companies defend the practice as an appropriate way to take care of an executive’s family after an unexpected death. They also note that the benefits often are negotiated as part of a pay package that has many components. In many cases, compensation attorneys say, death benefits are really a form of deferred compensation, structured partly for estate-planning or tax reasons.
Companies often say one goal of their pay packages is to keep executives from leaving. But “if the executive is dead, you’re certainly not retaining them,” says Steven Hall, an executive-pay consultant in New York.
We’re fine with this, but only on one condition: that the CEO’s family members, pets, and belongings have to be buried with him.
“Companies Promise CEOs Lavish Posthumous Paydays” [Wall Street Journal]