Money for nothing…

If 60 is the new 40, then what is someone who’s only 57 doing retiring? While California utility company PG&E (PCG) announced President and CEO Gordon R. Smith’s plans to retire on Dec. 31 back in September, the details of Smith’s severance were buried in an exhibit to the Q. The Q was filed last Wednesday, the same day the company released earnings, so few people paid attention to it.

As the company notes at the top of the exhibit, PG&E isn’t required to give Smith anything, which is why the $2.83 million in severance seems a bit generous, even given Smith’s long tenure at the company. What exactly is PG&E paying for? It’s not really clear from the filing. Indeed, unlike a lot of other top executives who retire after many years, Smith isn’t being asked to provide consulting services or do any other sort of “work” for the company while he hones his golf swing.

And although some of the language in the filing reads like legal boiler-plate, there seems to be a fair number of “don’t let the door slam you in the butt” clauses, such as the one that says Smith can’t seek future employment with the company or the clause about Smith making himself available for any future legal or regulatory proceedings. Then again, when the company put out the press release announcing changes in management, Smith was barely mentioned at the very end of the release.

What’s really going on here? It’s hard to say. But retiring at 57 and getting money for nothing definitely seems to indicate that there’s more to this story.