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Those who made the Corporate Counsel Top 100 may look like the luckiest in-house lawyers in the land, but they still have to show up in the office every day. This is not the case for some who retired or left their companies in the past year, only to receive consultancy arrangements worth even more than their salaries. Paul Hodgson, senior research associate at The Corporate Library, an independent investment research firm in Portland, Maine, says he’s intrigued by the attorneys’ lucrative deals. “This seems pretty unusual,” he says. “Even at the CEO level, consultancy fees tend to be lower than base salary rates.” High-rolling severance packages are also common. According to The Corporate Library, more than two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies have supplemental executive retirement plans, or SERPs. The packages are typically guaranteed, regardless of the company’s financial performance, and include money and noncash gifts. Recent increases in disclosure obligations have flushed out this information, revealing hidden golden parachutes-and alerting shareholder advocates. Says Patrick McGurn, executive vice president at Maryland-based Institutional Shareholder Services: “These severance and retirement arrangements are a major growth area in executive compensation in recent years. They are out of control and moving to the top of the shareholders’ list of complaints.” Heads turned, for example, when former Coca-Cola Company general counsel Deval Patrick resigned from the soft drink maker last October, after just three years of service, and got $2.1 million over the course of a year, or more than four times his salary. According to a letter attached to the firm’s first-quarter report, Patrick has “no obligation to work any particular hours during any period of time.” Patrick is rumored to be exploring a bid for Massachusetts governor. If he runs, he may wish to request campaign contributions from former Dow Jones & Company, Inc., general counsel Peter Skinner, who retired from the media company in December. Skinner will receive $1.15 million over the next year to pick up the phone-should he ever be called. Or Patrick could solicit USEC Inc.’s former GC, Timothy Hansen, who needn’t utter a word to earn the $1.2 million (more than four times his 2003 salary) that he received upon quitting the supplier of enriched uranium. The packages go beyond mere money. When Stephen Lambright, general counsel of Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., packed it in last summer, he got a three-year $1.8 million consultancy gig, memberships in four social clubs, an automobile, financial planning, insurance, office equipment, and three years’ worth of “complimentary beer service.” Perhaps he could throw Patrick’s campaign parties. The companies can explain. Carlos Ramirez, Anheuser-Busch’s company spokesperson, cites Lambright’s “invaluable knowledge.” Ben Deutsch, director of financial communications at Coca-Cola, notes Patrick’s “contributions to the company” and the need for “an orderly transition of the legal function.” Then there’s the pity factor. Deutsch recalls that Patrick left behind unvested options and restricted stock when he quit. One wonders, though: Why didn’t he get free Coke?

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