Fifteen Shocking CEO Severances

Here’s another tip for our Make the Most of Unemployment guide: if you’re going to get fired, be a CEO. HR World has rounded up 15 of the most shocking golden parachutes given out by big corporations to their departing leaders. Some of our favorites, inside.

What do you know, a lot of these companies that gave sweet severance packages to their CEOs were also nominated for Worst Company in America, with two of them reaching the Elite Eight. The first one, Exxon, sent its CEO Lee Raymond off with a $351 million package; the money should come in handy for when he wants to offer additional awards to scientists who come up with evidence that global warming is a myth.

Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide Mortgage (also an Elite Eight member) has appeared on Consumerist recently, as a result of investigation of the “Friends of Angelo” program that gave sweetheart rates to influential borrowers, including members of Congress. Oh also, he was part of that whole subprime mortgage meltdown. Guess that’s why he only got $23.8 million when he stepped down.

Last but not least, 2006’s Worst Company in America and 2007’s runner-up, Halliburton, gave a $34 million package and 430,000 shares of stock to its outgoing CEO, Dick Cheney. Unlike Countrywide, Halliburton is doing pretty well for itself right about now.

15 of the Most Astonishing Retirements, Bonuses, and Cash-Outs in Corporate America [HR World]
(Photo: Getty) (Thanks to Paul!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. dripdrop says:

    A $351M severance package? I can’t even fathom that.

  2. cmcd14 says:

    Yet for some reason, people find it hard to believe that Cheney and Co. are giving no-bid contracts to Halliburton in Iraq….

  3. Bladefist says:

    @cmcd14: Already politics brought into it. That didn’t take long.

  4. rellog says:

    In one thread, Alex gives EXCELLENT reasons as to why Exxon and Countrywide are in the top eight in the WCA bracket…

  5. cmcd14 says:

    @Bladefist: well when business has become politics, it’s hard to stay away.

  6. rellog says:

    @Bladefist: Truth hurt?

    Not even republicans can deny the resulting benefits to companies with ties to Bush and Cheney…
    If you want to argue that it’s ok to do so, fine. But don’t play stupid and not act like it isn’t happening…

  7. HollerJoller says:

    I wish I was unethical and cold hearted…I would be a gobmillionaire.

  8. rellog says:

    For the record, yes it happens with Dems too… look at the asshats from California and their RIAA MPAA stances…
    It has just become so completely blatant and excessive in this administration.

  9. stevejust says:

    @cmcd14: And Dick Cheney straight up lied all the time about “severing all finanical interests” in Halliburton because he had those shares while claiming he severed those ties.

    Dick Cheney has somewhere between $60 and $90 million dollars in personal wealth. Not bad for someone who was in public service all his life (except the 5 years at Halliburton). He worked in the Whitehouse with Rumsfeld under Nixon and Ford, he was a six-term congressman, and Sec. of Defense under Bush, Sr. before he became VP.

    The question no one asks but should is where the rest of the money came from.

    + Watch video

  10. Drowner says:

    Well I was hoping for some more rants about how we shouldn’t pay CEOs so much money, but this party took a completely different turn. I’ll see myself out.

  11. Bladefist says:

    @rellog: lol whatever.

    I guess I should point out that there aren’t a ton of companies out there, who have the resources to do the contracts over in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that there was only 1 company that was ready when needed, and guess who it was?

    I expected you guys would figure that out, that doing contracts in war zones isn’t a department of wal-mart, but I guess I got to spell it out for you.

  12. Bladefist says:

    The CEOs often leave with tons of trade secrets. If a CEO were to ever get re-employed with a competitor, or start their own company, the severance amount would be pennies compared to the money they could leave.

    I always saw it as paying them off to retire and shut up. For public companies its a board vote, and the share holder seem to approve of it.

    I don’t know what you can do.

  13. PunditGuy says:

    There’s only one private corporation ready to step up to the plate and overcharge us for meals never served and mail never delivered, I’ll admit. Then why use a private corporation to do those things in the first place?

  14. Grabraham says:

    Because we cut the military budgets severely when ‘The wall came down’ the Peace Dividend only works when you are not at war ;)

  15. ARP says:

    @Bladefist: True, but why pay them when the provide contaminated drinking water or if they bill you and you don’t even know what its for. When the Army procurment person questioned it, he was fired and they were immediately paid.

    Perhaps the political underlying issue is that most presidents and other major politicians put their money in a blind trust, to prevent this very sort of implication (the appearance of impropriety or conflict of interest). Cheney did not and now he has to live with the spectre of him encouraging war to improve his own nest egg.

    Regardless, the issue is that of CEO parachutes, even for companies that had poor performance or CEO’s that did a poor job. This actually violate the general tenant of corporation, which is maximize SHAREHOLDER value, not CEO or officier value. The problem is that shareholders are so decentralized, its difficult to do any sort of “bottom up” reforms.

  16. mikedt says:

    Great work if you can get it. If your company does well you get a big bonus, if your company does poorly you get a big severence check. While I know there’s nothing the individual puny stockholder can do, it would be nice if the mutual funds and retirement funds, who hold most of the proxies, would do something.

  17. Bladefist says:

    Well that’s because the government is corrupt. However, what I said about Halliburton, and how they were picked remains true.

    Their performance isn’t really the issue. Well it may be as far as a bonus. But as severance, it’s more of a protection service. Also some of these CEOs are seen as the face of the company. Examples would be Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, etc.

    When you leave in good terms w/ a ceo it speaks well about the company. You and me probably disagree. But we (presumably) dont own huge parts of these companies. People with big investments in company are worried about PR and how the company looks. They want the company to look like they are doing well and taking care of their own.

    Thats the best guess I got.

  18. bravo369 says:

    Companies have strategy plans and 5 year outlooks etc. Why can’t these severances be tied to what the person actually accomplished? why are they able to walk away with millions of dollars if they ran the company into the ground? i understand the need to attract and keep top talent and CEO’s but cmon now. Make a base severance of,say, 5 million and you get more if certain things are accomplished. if the company stunk then it’s your own fault you’re not walking away with 30 million dollars.

  19. Techguy1138 says:


    Haliburton did not have the equipment manpower or expertise to work as a contractor in Iraq or Afghanistan. They had to almost completely outsource all the work to local companies and are incapable of working in extremely adverse conditions,such as combat zones.

    They are great if you need on oil well built or an oil fire put out. As far as replacing what should have been the work of army and usmc logistics they have proved incapable of doing so at a reduced cost or increased efficiency.

    The current administrations insistence of outsourcing what used to me standard military jobs to civilian contractors in combat zones has caused considerable damage to the military capacity to function in the capacity that is required of it.

    The fact that the biggest no bid competitor is directly tied to the vice president makes it that much more shameful.

  20. VikingP77 says:

    @Bladefist: Wow I would so much rather buy from a company that has a better paid laid off/fired CEO!
    Your input always smack of self-righteous indulgent asshatery! And feel free to post back…..I will be busy ignoring you now.

  21. Techguy1138 says:

    @Bladefist: CEO get re-employed all of the time and by related or competing companies.

    They should not have to be paid off to not break the law. you would think that the real incentive of not divulging trade secrets is to avoid prison and large civil restitution.

  22. dragonfire1481 says:

    If all your buddies (whom you routinely give huge favors to) got to decide how much money you’d get as a CEO, you’d probably get a fat payday too.

    It’s all “you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours”

  23. anthonyhasp says:

    Most of the these packages are not severance payments. Severance payments occur as a result of being fired. For example, Lee Raymond was not fired, he clearly retired. What he received was not a severance payment, but rather his retirement package that had accumulated over his entire career. Was it high? Sure, but under his tenure, Exxon created significant wealth for its stockholders.

    This situation is even more true for Jack Welch. However, for Jack, most of the perks were given back, voluntarily, by Jack after the value of the perks were made known in his divorce proceedings–a fact left out by the authors of the article.

  24. sisedi says:

    @Drowner: Who is we? I don’t decide to pay CEOs so I have no control. The collective “We” have little to no influence over this other than which companies we make successful so I guess we can chose which companies give incredible severance packages.

  25. mammalpants says:

    i cant even imagine a $351 DOLLAR severance package.

  26. MyPetFly says:

    @cmcd14: >>well when business has become politics, it’s hard to stay away.

    I think you got it backwards — politics has become business. : ) (Actually, both.)

    All this unethical business and political shit makes me want to puke.

  27. DarrenO says:

    Global warming IS a myth, is there still any question that it’s not? Al Gore likes to spread the crap but he continues to increase his energy consumption and fatten his wallet with his books and appearances.

  28. azntg says:

    Ah, what a life! You get paid millions after running a company into the ground.

    Seriously, I’d like to call bull for anybody that says running a company as CEO is a hard job. Maybe it is… for embezellers and inept morons.

  29. jackal676 says:

    Al Gore buys carbon credits to offset the energy that his estate uses. He should have been president, but we as a country weren’t willing to step up, so now he fights for a cause he believes in. What’s wrong with that?

  30. jackal676 says:

    And paying CEOs all that money just puts too much pressure on them to effectively do their job. They’re expected to manufacture big results, and that’s what they’ll do, for better or worse. I just don’t understand why money is thrown around in such disgusting amounts. Companies doom themselves by elevating their leaders to the status of kings.

  31. Leohat says:

    351 MILLION!? That’s gotta be a typo or something.

    If that is correct, it is over a million dollars for every person in the USA!

  32. TechnoDestructo says:

    When you are determining the severance packages of your coworkers, and they are determining yours, you will get a severance package like that.

  33. TechnoDestructo says:


    If that’s the case, it just makes things look even more criminal.

  34. MyPetFly says:


    Remember Michael Milken? I believe his earnings one year (how long ago has it been???) reached $365 million — $1 million a day, including days off. In the time it would take him to shit, shower and shave, he earned as much as I do in a year.

  35. jackal676 says:

    No, just a dollar per person.

  36. Trai_Dep says:

    Can we get a second page or column or something for the Freepers? Their off-topic troll-spamming is getting absurd. Al Gore?!
    Regards Haliburton CEOs earning it: I wonder if house slaves defended the plantation owners as loyally. Unsure if there’s a happy answer to this question…

  37. Techguy1138 says:

    I’m pretty sure being a CEO IS a hard job. It simple not hard enough to justify the amount of money that they make.

    Money is a proxy that represents resources. At current rates $1,000,000 usd represents close to the life earning potential of a single average US worker.

    So the XOM basically said that the previous ceo was so valuable it was worth 351 lifetimes for him to simply leave his job. As a shareholder of XOM I wasn’t happy at all about this. I know I can only vote my shares but I’m still more than a little pissed that the company thinks it can throw away so much money at the high levels.

  38. alejo699 says:

    DarrenO says, “Global warming IS a myth, is there still any question that it’s not? Al Gore likes to spread the crap but he continues to increase his energy consumption and fatten his wallet with his books and appearances. “
    So, since Al Gore is a hypocrite that’s proof that what he says isn’t true? Brilliant logic!

  39. DarrenO says:

    @alejo699: I didn’t say that at all. What he says is wrong, but at least it’s making him a whole lot of cash. Here’s some interesting reading for you:


    Go look at the figures, the world has actually cooled down over the last ten years. How can that be if we believe Al Gore and all the global warming folks?

    Al Gore is either a hypocrite or he is just blind to anything he doesn’t want to believe.

  40. MyPetFly says:


    If the earth has cooled (and I’m not necessarily arguing the point), how would the melting of polar ice be explained? There are, as you probably know, large chunks of ice breaking away at an increased rate.

  41. DarrenO says:

    @MyPetFly: It’s just a part of the natural cycles of the planet. We’ve had ice ages before and then the ice melts. At some point in the future, the cycle repeats. To me, and to a lot of scientists, it seems more likely that things like the distance to the sun and solar activity have a much bigger impact on the temperature of the planet than anything we humans are doing.

    The data is out there which shows the average temperature of the planet actually has decreased over the past decade. I just want to know how the folks that believe global warming is real can explain that away. If our impact is so great on the planet then it should always be getting worse, right?

  42. Bladefist says:

    @Techguy1138: I’m just throwing ideas in the air. I’m not really on either side of the issue. Probably not really informed enough on CEOs and how they are paid. Just adding to the conversation.

  43. Parting says:

    @Bladefist: CEOs salaries used to be 40 times greater than regular employee. Now it’s easily 400-500 times. And they are not offering any outstanding work that deserves severance packages worth hundreds of years for loyal, everyday employees.

  44. ffmariners says:

    Golden parachutes,ugh, I loved arguing how much these suck in my business ethics class years ago!

  45. Bladefist says:

    @Victo: Ya I agree. But I also think its none of our business. The Board of directors at the public companies have the right to meet w/ stock holder and pay whomever whatever they want.

    I’m envious of their lifestyle, but I don’t hate them. They earned it.

  46. says:

    @VikingP77: so are yours. so what.

  47. Snarkysnake says:


    @The CEOs often leave with tons of trade secrets. If a CEO were to ever get re-employed with a competitor, or start their own company, the severance amount would be pennies compared to the money they could leave.@

    Just a fucking minute here. Are you telling us that the CEO class in this country is so morally bankrupt and mercenary that they have to be paid ridiculous amounts of money to NOT fuck over their former employers and shareholders ?

    That is the essence of the problem. People like yourself will defend these monstrous payouts to human crap sacks like Angelo Mozilo while their companies are being looted and the real owners are robbed blind. You seem to have this fantasy that this is called “capitalism”. Let me tell you something – In real honest to goodness capitalism,wealth flows to the owners of the enterprise,not to the hired hands that collude with the directors to steal it for themselves.Countrywide is bankrupt by any reasonable accounting standard. The owners will get a pittance for their remaining interest in the company. Enron. Global Crossing. A shitgob of dead dot coms. They all made the insiders insanely wealthy while destroying value for the owners.That is what you are defending.

    I have better Republican credentials than you. I have been a real grass roots foot soldier to get Republicans elected to local office.I have handed out literature,carried signs and worn funny hats. I believe that government is at best a necessary evil. But it’s time for these proto Republicans to go. Democrats are corrupted by government power.Republicans are corrupted by money.Stop parroting this nonsense that big business can solve your every little need.

  48. VikingP77 says: What a tool you are! Good job defending your buddy ;-)

  49. humphrmi says:

    Just a note about the Cheney Halliburton deal –

    1. The deferred compensation deal: Cheney and Halliburton bought an annuity when he was running for vice-president that pays him regardless of the company’s performance.

    2. The profit from the options are managed by a trustee who is contractually directed to give 40% of the profits to the University of Wyoming, 40% to George Washington University, and 20% to Capital Partners for Education. The contract cannot be revoked.

    I think Halliburton is evil in many ways but I don’t believe that Cheney has seen any benefit from the government’s dealings with them.

  50. rellog says:

    @Bladefist: First off, the comment about Haliburton being the only one is flat out wrong. Several other companies tried to put bids in, but were either not allowed or ignored.

    Second- at to the trade secrets… it’s called a non-compete clause. Many lower level employees have to sign them, so why shouldn’t the upper levels?

    As for the CEO pay scale being out of whack… of course it is. Hopefully there will be so reigning in via shareholders… barring that some laws. Personally, I like the idea of CEO pay being in line with the pay for the lower level employees. It would give them incentives to start paying a living wage again.

  51. Bourque77 says:

    Even European CEOs make about a 3rd of what their counterparts do here. Last I looked the economy is doing better there than it is here. I guess CEOs over there dont work half as hard as ours.

  52. Bladefist says:

    @Snarkysnake: Ya I can tell your a true republican. And you are fighting with me about who is the better republican, giving me your republican resume, like you know mine. You are DEFINITELY not a wacko.

    @rellog: the first issue i disagree with. Factual info? hmm?

    2nd, i know what a non compete is. I’ve been under them. But when your a CEO of a huge corporation, you know a lot more then the typical people under non-compete contracts. It makes senses to treat these people well. Once again, I’m not on either side, just making guesses on why they do it

  53. Bladefist says:

    @Snarkysnake: Also, my dad can beat up your dad.

  54. Snarkysnake says:

    Shouldn’t be too tough. My dad is 74 years old.

    Enjoy. Savor the last few months before a real ass whipping at the hands of the electorate. I am not talking about John McCain here (although it’s certainly possible).The “Republicans” in congress are going to get a mucking out that they won’t soon forget come November. After these blow dried phonies have to pack their bags and leave,they can just look in the damn mirror for the source of their unemployment.

    Will the Democrats that replace them be corrupt ? You betcha. But throwing these asswipes out will throw the fear of god into the next bunch that wants to sell out our heritage and our industry to enrich the creeps on Wall Street. I don’t give a shit whether you think I’m a good Republican or not. If being a “true” Republican means that you turn a blind eye to moral rot, corruption and incompetence- Then you can have it.

  55. humphrmi says:

    @Snarkysnake: The Democrats tried and succeeded at replacing Republicans two years ago and then went on to change nothing and become the most distrusted, lowest approval rated Congress ever.

    I don’t think that the electorate trusts either party in Congress. That’s why an outsider was nominated by the Democrats, they’ve had enough of the Nancy Pelosi / Harry Reid / Steny Hoyer show and want someone with the grit to tell them what the word “change” really means, not an insider who’ll go have a shmoozie lunch with them. And yes, I honestly think that Obama will be tougher on his Democratic colleagues that Clinton would have been, if he’s elected.

    Once people have truly had enough, the pendulum will swing back the other way. I just hope it happens soon.

    And by the way, I’m a lifetime Republican.

  56. alejo699 says:

    Totally off-topic at this point, but even if global warming is a naturally occurring event, there’s little doubt that our polluting of the planet isn’t good for us or it. There’s less potable water — in fact less water that you can even swim in — there’s a giant island of plastic in the ocean, the fish are disappearing, the bees are dying … we need to change how we do things, and insisting that global warming is a hoax doesn’t solve anything.

  57. @Snarkysnake: If being a “true” Republican means that you turn a blind eye to moral rot, corruption and incompetence- Then you can have it.

    That is my new favorite quote.

  58. stevejust says:

    @humphrmi: False. He did get 5 years of deferred compensation, which TECHNICALLY isn’t company-performance-oriented.

    But he also had 433,333 shares of stock when he was saying on Meet the Press and elsewhere that he’d severed all ties from Halliburton. If he just had the deferred compensation package, this would have been okay. But the value of his stocks rose through the roof.

    Too, you have to understand that before bailing out of Halliburton to become VP, Halliburton was actually in financial difficulty. They acquired a bunch of asbestos liability when they bought out KBR. They were facing shareholders suits, and allegations of accounting irregularities of the kind seen in Enron, Tyco, Worldcom, etc.,.

    But Cheney left Halliburton, became VP, and ensured all that would be erased by making Halliburton the single largest recipient of private contractor dollars in Iraq.

    He is one of the most evil people the world has ever seen. I’m talking Pol Pot, Hitler, Vlad the Impailer evil.

  59. Snowblind says:

    Oh please… overstate much?

    Even the Lancet can’t make up numbers about Cheney that get him even close to the number any one of those nutjobs you mention killed by their actions.

    ‘Salright, we will still protect your ass while you complain about how evil it is here in Western civilization.

  60. rellog says:

    @Bladefist: Bechtel, Boots and Coots International and Wild Well Control Inc.(which they subcontracted the job to) and GSM Consulting are all competitors and all had the ability to do the original job of fighting well fires. Now did Cheney simply have faith in his previous employer or ties that made the decision… maybe. But it was an inappropriate move either way…

  61. RedSonSuperDave says:

    I long for the day that we make the “golden parachute” a literal reality instead of just a figure of speech.

  62. 00447447 says:

    “the money should come in handy for when he wants to offer additional awards to scientists who come up with evidence that global warming is a myth.”

    As opposed the the other Climate Alarmists who work totally for free.

  63. humphrmi says:

    @stevejust: Vlad the Impaler got a bad rap. He was a so-so leader who’s only transgression was imposing a rather unique form of torture on convicted criminals. Torture, by the way, was pretty standard capital punishment in those days. He wasn’t any better or worse than any other leader of the day in that geographic region, just unique.

  64. Parting says:

    @Bladefist: No they didn’t. Often, they disregard stock holder’s opinions on golden parachutes. And stock holders are ”owners”.

    So we have high placed employees abusing the system.