Some mighty fancy lawyering…

images-16.jpegFresh on the heels of the news that American Airlines (AMR) pilots are upset about the $21 million in stock bonuses paid to top executives comes another sign of excess among the so-called legacy carriers — this time at United Airlines (UAUA).

In the proxy that the company filed late Monday, there was an interesting footnote — in, you guessed it, Enron Beelzebub typeface — about the amount of money the company spent to reimburse Chief Operating Officer Peter McDonald for negotiating his latest employment contract: a whopping $82,056. Even assuming the attorney working on behalf of McDonald billed out at $500 an hour (which seems like an awful lot of money for an employment contract), that works out to just over 164 hours, which is an awful lot of time for something that a resonably talented law student ought to be able to handle.

A quick skim of the contract that was filed at the end of September doesn’t reveal anything that’s all that out of the ordinary. So why did McDonald’s contract cost so much money to negotiate? Any attorneys who read footnoted want to chime in?

One other interesting item about United. On Monday, the company also filed this 8-K, which appears to be a new executive severance agreement for anyone above a grade 5 or 6 based on a quick skim of previous filings. Is this just a protective measure, or are they setting the table for something else?