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Golden Handshakes: Separation Pay for Retired and Dismissed CEOs

  • Yermack, David


    (New York University)

This paper studies separation payments made when CEOs leave their firms. In a sample of 179 exiting Fortune 500 CEOs, more than half receive severance pay and the mean separation package is worth $5.4 million. The large majority of severance pay is awarded on a discretionary basis by the board of directors and not according to terms of an employment agreement. For the subset of exiting CEOs who are dismissed, separation pay generally conforms to theories related to bonding and damage control. Shareholders react negatively when separation agreements are disclosed, but only in cases of voluntary CEO turnover.

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Paper provided by Institute for Financial Research in its series SIFR Research Report Series with number 41.

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Length: 34 pages
Date of creation: 15 Feb 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:sifrwp:0041
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  1. Paul A. Gompers & Joy L. Ishii & Andrew Metrick, 2002. "Corporate Governance and Equity Prices," Center for Financial Institutions Working Papers 02-32, Wharton School Center for Financial Institutions, University of Pennsylvania.
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  7. Lambert, Richard A. & Larcker, David F., 1985. "Golden parachutes, executive decision-making, and shareholder wealth," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 7(1-3), pages 179-203, April.
  8. C. Edward Fee, 2003. "Raids, Rewards, and Reputations in the Market for Managerial Talent," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 16(4), pages 1315-1357.
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  11. Jay C. Hartzell, 2004. "What's In It for Me? CEOs Whose Firms Are Acquired," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 17(1), pages 37-61.
  12. Grinstein, Yaniv & Hribar, Paul, 2004. "CEO compensation and incentives: Evidence from M&A bonuses," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 73(1), pages 119-143, July.
  13. Fama, Eugene F, 1980. "Agency Problems and the Theory of the Firm," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 88(2), pages 288-307, April.
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  15. Sundaram, Rangarajan K. & Yermack, David, 2006. "Pay Me Later: Inside Debt and Its Role in Managerial Compensation," SIFR Research Report Series 43, Institute for Financial Research.
  16. Lefanowicz, Craig E. & Robinson, John R. & Smith, Reed, 2000. "Golden parachutes and managerial incentives in corporate acquisitions: evidence from the 1980s and 1990s," Journal of Corporate Finance, Elsevier, vol. 6(2), pages 215-239, July.
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