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At Massey Energy, a Retiring CEO Is Worth 7 Dead Miners

Former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship took quite a pay hit last year. His compensation package dropped 42 percent to $10.4 million. But that's the kind of tough love treatment you can expect from the Massey Energy board. After all, 29 miners died last year under Blankenship's watch. Then there was Blankenship's all out war with federal mining regulators and the company's numerous safety violations, which far outpaced its rivals. And who can forget those abysmal earnings and the company's lackluster performance?

Luckily, Blankenship has his $12 million retirement package to fall back on, which includes a secretary, continued use of his current office for another three years, a monthly $5,000 retainer fee, title to a 1965 Blue Chevrolet truck and access to documents in possession of Massey necessary to defend himself in litigation or investigations arising out of his employment. Thank God for small blessings.

Meanwhile, the company and its attorneys determined the life of a dead miner is worth about $3 million. The families of the miners who died in last year's Upper Big Branch mine explosion have until June 1 to accept the settlement offer. If they take the money, they are barred from suing the company over the accident. Here's Massey's general counsel weighing in on the matter, via the WSJ.

As a general matter, we believe it is in the best interest of the families affected by this tragedy to bring this process to a close.
Best interests, indeed. Massey is clearly just looking out for those poor families, who might otherwise have to slog through a trying legal battle against its team of attorneys. Seven families, most likely realizing what they're up against, have said they want to settle, while at least 10 families have sued the company under West Virginia's wrongful deal statute.

To really grasp all this, I made a simple pie graph comparing Blankenship's total retirement and 2010 earnings to Massey's settlement offer to families of the dead miners.

To put these numbers in perspective consider this:

  • Blankenship's retirement package is worth about four dead miners.
  • His 2010 earnings are equal to almost 3 1/2 dead workers.
So, $12 million + $10.4 million = $22.4 million dollars

According to the board, Don Blankenship is =

Photo from Flickr user zzzack, CC 2.0

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