Get paid $18 million for three weeks of work

Truthfully, I don't think you or I are going to come upon an opportunity like this in the near future. But it's nice to know that in the land of opportunity, anything is possible. Even if it involves earning $18 million for a mere 3 weeks of work.

Alan Fishman has been the CEO of Washington Mutual for less than three weeks. And now that JPMorgan Chase has taken over the failed bank, he's likely to be out of a job. Lucky for him, his employment agreement calls for millions in severance pay if he's let go. How's that for a going away gift?

Fishman started running WaMu on September 7 after the company got rid of the prior CEO, Kerry Killinger. He's got a base salary of $1 million, plus a target annual bonus of $3.65 million, and a long-term incentive award of at least $8 million. Let's not forget about the $7.5 million signing bonus Fishman got for taking the position to start with.
No one's sure if Fishman will have to pay back all or part of his signing bonus, and we're also not sure how much of the incentives he'll actually get as he walks out the door. But it's possible that he could get a severance payment of $6.15 million, and possibly some of the other incentives that were available under the contract. And the company also pays any taxes associated with the severance package, which adds millions to the package.

Confused by the numbers yet? Although it's unclear how much Fishman will be paid under his employment contract if he's out of a job, we can rest assured that he'll get at least a few million (and maybe even several million) dollars to ease his pain. And all this after only three weeks as the head of WaMu. Where do I get a job like that?

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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