Will Lawrence Lasser receive his $32 million golden parachute?
The odds that Putnam’s ousted CEO will receive a hefty pay package in any number of scenarios is pretty good, but parent company Marsh & McLennan Cos. has said it is reviewing Lasser’s contract to see what he’s actually owed. And, even if MML figures out a smaller payout, the Boston newspapers report that Lasser might still be able to finnagle more money out of the company because his 1997 employment agreement with MML states that he is to be paid the $32 million unless he is fired for a particular reason, such as committing fraud.
Various news sources have reported just how well-paid Lasser was. Over the past six years he has made $163 million, five times the earnings of his boss, Jeffrey Greenberg, the chairman and ceo MML. In fact, Lasser’s salary climbed through the nineties. The Boston Herald reports that in 1997, he took $12.8 million home in salary and bonuses, the next year he took home $18 million and in 1999, he made $27 million.
His salary did deflate when the economy began its downturn but not by much. In 2000 he made $34 million but in 2001 he only made $18 million. Last year he took home $8 million.
During his 33 years with Putnam, Lasser spent 18 as chief executive. He began his career with the company as an analyst and a few years later he became research director. His climb up the Putnam ladder was steady and in 1985, while he was the company’s chief financial officer, he was promoted to the top spot. Many observers have credited Lasser with the company’s evolution from a boutique to a major fund firm and within the company he was known for his iron fisted management style.
Lasser's penchant for control is why the news that several Putnam managers got away with market timing for several years and that the company ignored an employee’s concerns about trades made by a client were especially egregious. How could Lasser allow this to happen on his watch? In these days of corporate accountability, Lasser’s career with the company officially ended when the world learned that the several managers involved were actually caught but not disciplined for their actions.
However, since history repeats itself, regardless of why Lasser was fired, he will most likely receive most of the money agreed to in his employment contract. When ceos like Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski also receive parachutes, there’s reason to believe that Lasser’s case might be any different.
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