A short, but lucrative, stay at Hanover…

As it was for so many others, 2010 was a year of change for Steven J. Bensinger, the departing CFO of The Hanover Insurance Group, Inc. (THG). A couple of weeks ago, Bensinger announced that he’ll be leaving Hanover to “return to the New York area.”

Bensinger’s stay at Hanover was surprisingly brief. He just arrived at the company this past January – first as Executive Vice President- Senior Finance Officer – and then as CFO and Principal Accounting Officer (after the prior CFO left in March). But even this brief service appears pretty rewarding, based on the Separation Agreement that Hanover filed yesterday.

In exchange for continuing in his current role as CFO until March 12, 2011, Bensinger will get bi-weekly checks of $20,769.23. After that, when he hangs up his CFO hat but sticks around until June 30 to help the newly appointed CFO, David Greenfield, Bensinger’s bi-weekly checks will drop to $6,923.07.

Perhaps even more interesting is the money that Hanover is letting Bensinger keep on his way out the door. He doesn’t have to repay any money he got under Hanover’s relocation program, he gets company-provided financial planning services through the end of 2011, and he gets a $300,000 2010 Short-Term Incentive Compensation award.

He also gets to keep his $200,000 sign-on bonus, which he would have had to repay, based on the following provision of his employment contract:

“In the event you voluntarily terminate your employment, or are terminated for cause, prior to the third anniversary of your date of hire, you hereby agree to return such amount in full.”

Bensinger’s name may ring a bell because of his 6-year tenure at AIG. He rose to the rank of CFO in 2005 and remained there until he resigned in October, 2008.

If Bensinger already has his next job lined up, he’s not tipping his hand. In the Separation Agreement, Hanover promises Bensinger it will “…be reasonable in providing you with time, and accommodating schedule, so you may conduct your job search and pursue employment opportunities.”

Hanover’s trading price is up nearly 5.7 percent from where it was when Bensinger joined the company. Although we bet that AIG’s shareholders would have practically killed for that rate of return in the fall of 2008 – when the meltdown at AIG forced a massive taxpayer bailout – it must be noted that Hanover’s current growth trails both the Insurance (Property & Casualty) sector by 8.8 percentage points and the S&P 500 by 6.86 percentage points.

With 34 years of experience in the financial services industry, Bensinger will surely land on his feet when he moves back to New York. But for shareholders’ sake, we hope that the final stretch of Bensinger’s current gig ends on a better note than his last one did.

Image source: Todd Ryburn via flickr

NOTE: Today is the last day of the 2010 “Worst Footnote of the Year” contest. If you haven’t already voted, please cast your ballot in this totally unscientific contest here.