Work & Money Briefs

Keeping Track: CEO severance deals

For many Fortune 500 chiefs, a three-year package.

Never mind "what color is your parachute," the more appropriate question in these supposedly penny-pinching days: How big is the thing?

Among many Fortune 500 firms, nobody seems to be sparing the nylon. In a sample study of such firms, more than a third cited three years' pay as part of stated severance packages for chief executives, according to career-services firm Lee Hecht Harrison, which analyzed the publicly available CEO employment agreements of 100 firms. Benefits were kept as well, says LHH. Median salary: $850,000; $1.1 million bonus.

Sept. 11 charities pass $2.4 billion mark

Americans responded to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon by opening their wallets wide. More than $2.4 billion has been raised by 470 charities based in 38 states and Washington, D.C., according to the Foundation of the Better Business Bureau (BBB) serving metropolitan New York.

In partnership with the BBB Wise Giving Alliance, the foundation has released a list of organizations that collected funds, presenting their total inflows. The information is available on its website:

The site is not a scorecard on the efficiency of distribution of funds. But the foundation reports an estimated $1.9 billion has already been given to families and organizations in need.

The bulk of the donations were collected by a handful of organizations – the American Red Cross, for example, collected $988 million, and the New York Community Trust and United Way of New York City together took in $501 million. Eleven charities account for $1.5 billion.

"The response by charities to 9/11 has been impressive," says Ronna Brown, president of the Metro New York BBB Foundation. "Over the past year, the nonprofit community in New York City has created more avenues of communication and cooperation than previously existed."

Scam watch: Before you buy that oil well

Scams involving unscrupulous stockbrokers and financial analysts with conflicting interests are for the first time among the top investment frauds recently included on the annual list of the North American Securities Administrators Association.

Among the other top investment frauds:

• Promissory notes, which typically involve loans to companies made by investors in exchange for a fixed amount of periodic income. Legitimate corporate promissory notes are not usually sold to the public, and some schemes are fraudulent.

• Prime-bank schemes that promise investors risk-free, triple-digit returns on debt notes said to be guaranteed by the world's biggest banks.

• Affinity-investing schemes that target religious, ethnic, and professional groups and are carried out by members of the groups who use their common backgrounds to gain trust.

• Charitable-gift annuities, in which a donor gives cash or stock to a charity in return for lifetime fixed payments based on age. (Regulators said investors should be cautious of little-known organizations offering such investments.)

• Oil and gas schemes, including investments in fraudulent operations or wells that don't produce.

- Associated Press

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