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A lavish send-off for Pulte…

Thursdays are my current events days. For people in the working world, this might seem strange, but it’s common lingo used among us nerdy Northwestern journalism students. Without a doubt, every Thursday our professors begin class with an extensive current events quiz, and I must admit that while I usually do well on these, yesterday wasn—t my best performance.

So what’s the point of me sharing my current event shortcomings with all of you? Well, this week the one question I missed was on Chicago’s soaring home foreclosures in the fourth quarter — a point I—m still kicking myself for missing considering hot topics in this week’s batch of filings.

I opened my inbox Tuesday morning to find this proxy filed by Pulte Homes (PHM). Earlier this week, the company put out this press release to announce company founder William Pulte’s retirement. But the proxy included something more — what Pulte will collect as he bids farewell after spending 60 years in the building business. The first check he can cash is more than $3 million in severance payments. The second is compensation for his consulting agreement with the company beginning April 1, 2010 and extending to March 31, 2012. Over the course of this two-year agreement, Pulte will pocket $3 million in total, or $1.5 million per year. The company also promised Pulte an office, administrative assistance, and reimbursement for all expenses related to the job. Now, granted, this may not seem like a huge amount considering the company’s $4 billion market cap, but after taking a closer glance at the agreement, it seems like a lot of money for very little work. Here’s a key section:

Consultant shall not devote more than 75 hours during any calendar quarter during the Consulting Period to the performance of such consulting services, which the parties acknowledge and agree is less than 20% of the average level of services performed by the Consultant for the Company during the 36-month period prior to April 1, 2010.

Pulte’s send-off comes in the midst of one of the worst housing cycles the country has ever witnessed. Last week, the company issued this press release citing a net loss of $117 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, including significant charges totaling $925 million. And, due to high home foreclosures, like those happening in Chicago Pulte Homes— net loss was $1.2 billion for the year ending Dec. 31, 2009.

This post was written by footnoted intern Kristen Scholer who is a junior at Northwestern University.