Kaiser Gets OK For Executive Retention Pool

September 6, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Kaiser Aluminum is trying to dig its way out of bankruptcy- and has gotten court approval to sweeten an executive retention pool, even as it has shed more than 1,000 jobs.

Executives still with the ailing Kaiser Aluminum have been enjoying a generous financial package drawn from a $56.8 million program designed to help keep them around during the firm’s fiscal troubles, the Associated Press reported.

US Bankruptcy Judge Judith Fitzgerald in Delaware approved the program, which company officials contend is necessary if Kaiser is going to prevent its remaining executive staff from jumping ship, the AP said.

The company’s retention program includes a $7.5 million, two-year payout to be split among 55 employees ($136,000 per employee) including CEO Jack Hockema, Kaiser spokesman Scott Lamb told the AP.

Other components include $14.9 million in severance pay; $9.8 million for a supplemental retirement program, and $24.6 million for 20 executives should they lose their jobs if another company takes over Kaiser, according to the report.

Lamb said some key managers have already departed Kaiser. He declined to name them, the AP said.  “That’s one of the reasons we thought it was important to get (the retention plan) approved,” Lamb said, according to the AP

Different Scenarios

The program is designed to cover several scenarios – from asset liquidation to restructuring – that in each case would offer executives a financial incentive to stay with the company until the end of the bankruptcy.

The United Steelworkers of America filed the only objection to the plan, arguing that any available assets should go to reopening plants and preserving benefits of retired employees.

“It’s surprising that others didn’t object, that so many are tone-deaf on an issue that large numbers of Americans would agree with the union on,” David Foster, a Steelworkers official. “Rewarding the executives who managed the company into bankruptcy is entirely inappropriate,” he said.