Report: Cheney Gets $20M

This combination of file photos shows Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, on April 27, 2006 and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006.
Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney stands to reap a golden parachute worth an estimated $20 million when he retires from the Halliburton Co., the energy services firm he has led over the past five years, The New York Times reported Saturday.

In a deal struck five days before Texas Gov. George W. Bush announced Cheney as his running mate, the board of the Dallas-based company approved an agreement on July 20 allowing the 59-year-old Cheney to keep full benefits despite retiring three years early, the Times said.

The agreement allows Cheney to duck penalties known as "golden handcuffs" that could have caused him to forfeit some of his compensation if he retired before age 62 without the board's permission.

Wendy Hall, a spokeswoman for Halliburton, told Reuters Saturday she could not confirm the exact amount in Cheney's package.

"We're still working up the numbers," Hall said, adding that an official announcement was expected Wednesday. "He did not receive any privileges or anything. It was just a typical executive retirement."

A Bush campaign spokesman downplayed the reported retirement deal, which solidifies and expands Cheney's personal stake in the oil industry—and in Halliburton in particular—while he confronts major energy policy issues on the campaign trail.

"The only impact is that it is a reminder that our country is best served when people with private sector experience can leave their jobs to enter the public sector," Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer told Reuters Saturday.

"We'd be worse off if the only people eligible for public service were career politicians who never spent a day in the private sector," Fleischer said, noting that Cheney has stated that if he is elected he will place all his holdings in a blind trust.

The Times said Cheney, who has spent most of his career as a public official and federal employee, has been paid at least $12.5 million since 1995, when he joined Halliburton, the world's biggest oilfield services company. He has also received stock and options worth nearly $39 million at its current share price.

The company's decision to permit Cheney to treat his departure as early retirement also allows him to keep $10 million worth of stock and options he would have forfeited had he simply resigned, the Times said, quoting public company filings.

The newspaper said it was unclear if this bonus was part of the retirement package, or in addition to it.

It quoted one source who had been briefed on the package as saying it totaled about $20 million.

Cheney, who has served most of his time at Halliburton as chairman and chief executive, will remain an employee of the company until Aug. 16 with the title "chairman in transition."

Halliburton officials stressed that Cheney did not receive any special treatment, with one company director telling the Times that Chenegot "whatever the contract calls for."

"There was nothing done at the board level of an exceptional nature for Dick Cheney," W.R. Howell, former chairman and chief executive of The J.C. Penney Co., told the Times. "The press release indicated that Dick Cheney is retiring, and that's what he's doing."

According to reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Cheney is covered by two retirement plans at Halliburton—a profit-sharing plan, and a second plan intended to provide a minimum pension if the profit-sharing funds are inadequate, the Times said. It said the company has not disclosed how much Cheney stands to receive from the two plans.

The potentially lucrative retirement deal is not the first question to arise about Cheney, who served Gov. Bush's father as Secretary of Defense. His finances, health and voting record as a Wyoming Congressman have all come under scrunity.

In late May, Cheney notified the Securities and Exchange Commission on May 31 declaring an intent to sell 100,000 shares of stock in Halliburton for an estimated $5.1 million. The transaction raised questions about the numerous connections between the GOP ticket and the oil industry, especially in a year when energy policy is an unusually popular issue because of high gas prices.

Concerns about Cheney's history of heart trouble—he suffered three mild heart attacks more than a decade ago and hat cardiac surgery—were refuted by doctors who said the GOP number two man was fit.

But votes cast during Cheney's 10-year stint in Congress, such as ones against funding Head Start or calling for the release of Nelson Mandela, also stirred controversy.