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DATE News (chronologically)
03/31/09
automotive
Wagoner Drives Away with $20M Retirement
Rick Wagoner will leave his post as CEO of bailed-out General Motors with a $20 million retirement package, the company's financial filings show.  Although the Treasury Department has barred GM from paying severance to Wagoner or any other senior executive, Wagoner is eligible to collect millions in retirement benefits from his former employer, according to the documents reviewed by ABC News.

The Obama administration asked for Wagoner to resign Sunday, as part of its restructuring of the auto industry. President Obama said this morning that forcing Wagoner out indicated it was a time for new leadership.

Under Wagoner's leadership, GM lost tens of billions of dollars, took billions in taxpayer-financed aid, and cut tens of thousands of jobs, including announced plans to cut 47,000 employees by the end of 2009.

Wagoner was one of the three auto industry CEOs who inflamed Congressional ire by flying to Washington in private jets to ask for taxpayers to bail out their beleaguered businesses. They returned a month later in hybrid cars.

If GM is forced into bankruptcy, Wagoner could get much less, according to Dave Schmidt, an executive compensation analyst with James F. Reda and Associates. Less than $1 million of Wagoner's total $20.2 million pension package appears to be guaranteed if GM goes bankrupt, Schmidt said. Even if GM is to avoid bankruptcy, Wagoner may need to negotiate with the company's board to access all or part of the money in his pension fund.

"Most" of Wagoner's retirement benefits "will be paid out as an annuity over five years, the remainder is a small lifetime annuity," GM spokeswoman Julie M. Gibson said in an email earlier today. But in a subsequent "clarification" email after this story published, Gibson said that the terms of Wagoner's final compensation were not yet hammered out. "Specifics on any compensation entitled to, or actually paid to Mr. Wagoner are still being reviewed," she wrote. ABC News

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