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Copyright © 2012, Campbell R. Harvey. All Rights Reserved.
A clause in a high-ranking executive's hiring contract describing a lucrative severance package once the executive leaves the company. The package often includes cash and stock options worth millions of dollars, as well equity in the company. The executive is normally eligible for a golden handshake regardless of the circumstances under which he/she left the company, whether retirement, redundancy brought about from a merger or acquisition, or termination for mismanagement. Controversy surrounding the practice tends to increase in times of increased mergers, as well as in economic downturns.
Farlex Financial Dictionary. © 2012 Farlex, Inc. All Rights Reserved
An employment agreement that provides a firm's key executives with lucrative severance benefits in the event that control of the firm changes hands and that shifts in management subsequently occur. A golden parachute benefits management more than the stockholders. Also called golden umbrella. See also silver parachute.
Case Study After a rocky year that included embarrassing financial disclosures and a plummeting stock price, one-time high-flying Enron Corporation was forced in November 2001 to seek a major cash infusion to shore up its balance sheet. Improper accounting caused the Houston-based energy trading company to disclose that the firm would reduce four years of previously reported income by over half a billion dollars. The company was also forced to write down assets and reduce shareholders' equity. Competitor Dynegy, Inc., came to Enron's aid by proposing an all-equity $8.85 billion takeover. Enron's chairman, Kenneth Lay, was eligible for severance benefits under certain circumstances, including a change in management that resulted in a termination of his employment. Lay had worked at the firm since 1984, when it was a regional pipeline company operating under as Houston Natural Gas Company. The golden parachute was to pay Lay a lump sum of $20.2 million for each year remaining on his contract. The chairman had three years remaining at the time of the Dynegy offer, meaning he was entitled to receive a lump-sum payment of over $60 million. To the surprise of many, Lay announced at a meeting with Enron employees that he would waive his right to the severance pay. As it turned out, the Dynegy offer was shortly withdrawn and a month later Enron was in bankruptcy. Information released following the bankruptcy indicated that Enron executives had personally profited in financial dealings with the firm.
Wall Street Words: An A to Z Guide to Investment Terms for Today's Investor by David L. Scott. Copyright © 2003 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved. All rights reserved.
golden parachutesee TAKEOVER BID.
Collins Dictionary of Business, 3rd ed. © 2002, 2005 C Pass, B Lowes, A Pendleton, L Chadwick, D O’Reilly and M Afferson
golden parachutesee TAKEOVER BID.
Collins Dictionary of Economics, 4th ed. © C. Pass, B. Lowes, L. Davies 2005
An agreement entered into by a corporation with its top executives to make payments to the executives in the event of a change in corporate control. Such payments are treated as compensation.
Copyright © 2008 H&R Block. All Rights Reserved. Reproduced with permission from H&R Block Glossary