Worst of the Week: 'Chutes and Grabbers

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Remember all those banks that got millions and millions of taxpayer dollars to help prop up their businesses and the economy in general? The deal was that if a bank took the government funds, they wouldn’t provide any of their executives with “golden parachutes.” (If you're unfamiliar with the term, that’s when an executive gets paid a ton of money to do nothing but leave the company.)

As we featured this week, our partners over at ProPublica are reporting that a couple of bankers have skirted that rule and are walking away with millions.

First in flight is Lisa Binder, former COO of Associated Banc-Corp in Wisconsin (Stock Quote: ASBC), which took $525 million in TARP funds.

According to ProPublica, “Earlier this month, Lisa Binder, Associated Banc-Corp’s president and chief operating officer, resigned. But she didn’t leave empty-handed: The bank agreed to pay her $1.65 million. Binder’s severance agreement, filed last week with the Securities and Exchange Commission, acknowledges the ban on golden parachutes. But Binder’s payment isn’t a golden parachute according to the agreement: It’s compensation for 'services rendered.'  Those services? Not competing with the bank.”

Well played, Ms. Binder. You get $1.65 million and in exchange you will do absolutely nothing. Nice non-work if you can get it.

Then, Footnoted.org uncovered another hero of capitalism who worked at Hampton Roads Bankshares in Virginia (Stock Quote: HMPR), which grabbed $80.3 million in TARP bucks.

ProPublica writes, ”Hampton Roads Bankshares… announced last week that its CEO was retiring. On Friday, the bank disclosed that in addition to a full slate of retirement benefits, the exec will be paid $1.3 million for ‘consulting duties.’ Jack Gibson, the departing CEO, evidently doesn’t think he’ll be working too hard consulting. ‘I can think of no better time to fulfill my personal goal of early retirement,’ he said in a press release announcing his exit. ‘It is well known within the company that I would like to retire by age 60, and I’m almost there.’ During the period of his three-year consulting gig, the bank has also agreed to cover his membership dues at a local country club.”

Both of these stories are nauseating. I have no doubt that, now that the light of public scrutiny has been shined on these two executives, they'll want to make amends.

Mr. Gibson and Ms. Binder, here’s what you need to do: Pool your golden parachutes together and throw a $3 million party for all of your banks debtors, particularly the ones facing foreclosure. Fly them in from wherever they live and put them up in a nice hotel. You could even have the party at your country club, Mr. Gibson. (You know, the one you’re not paying dues for.) I think that will go a long way in showing people that you really care about fiscal responsibility. These days lots of people could probably use a mini-vacation and swanky party.

On the other hand, you guys could just give the money back.

More of the worst after the jump.



Do Lottery Tickets Need Instructions?

We at MainStreet believe that if you’re trying to secure your financial future, playing the lottery is probably one of the least effective things you can do (after auditioning for American Idol). But if you do decide to play the lottery, we think it’s probably a good idea to check to see if you’ve won.

A Pennsylvania woman nearly missed out on a $400,000 Powerball prize because the winning ticket was sitting unchecked in a shoe box with all of her other lottery tickets. Brenda Stover of New Cumberland, Pa., finally bothered to take a look when her husband saw a news report on the jackpot money, which had been unclaimed for nearly a year. The missing ticket was about to expire.

"We just encourage players to please check your tickets," Ed Trees, a Pennsylvania Lottery representative, told news station WGAL.

Excellent advice, Ed. May the citizens of Pennsylvania heed your call.  

We’re just hoping against hope that the Stovers don’t go out a blow all the cash in the first year. Put some of that cash away for a rainy day, folks.


The Loan Application from Hell
You would think, especially these days, that deep debt is scary enough. But director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spiderman) is adding goat-horned demons, evil scarves, creepy sound effects and other assorted spookiness to the subprime mortgage crisis.

Raimi's latest, aptly titled Drag Me to Hell, starts with a bank visit from an old woman askng for a third extension on her mortgage. Needless to say, the woman turns out to be a rather vindictive witch. “A loan officer ordered to evict an old woman from her home finds herself the recipient of a supernatural curse, which turns her life into a living hell,” according to IMDB.com.

Someone should have told the old woman about Obama’s mortgage modification program, which may have saved her from eviction and foreclosure.

Personal finance based horror movies? Sounds like box office gold. We're counting the days until the release of 401(K)iller Bees.

Post your own ideas for terrifiying finance movies in comments.

And don't forget, we need your help to scour the world of personal finance for news items that confound due to their blatant lack of common sense. If you’ve got any suggestions, please drop us a line.

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