What’s a life worth?

December 15, 2005

Lately, we’ve been seeing a lot of talk in the filings about death benefits. It must just be that time of the year when people take stock of their lives, what with the new year just a few weeks away. Then again, it’s more likely the latest twist on the old split-dollar life insurance policies that were outlawed under SOX.

So what’s a life worth these days? A lot if you’re a managing director of Goldman Sachs (GS), which in an 8-K filed earlier today, valued the life of its managing directors at $4.5 million a pop. Two months ago, Goldman announced its most recent group of managing directors — more than 200 people in all — so we’re not talking about an insignificant chunk of change. As the filing notes, the coverage is valid through age 75.

Though Goldman announces a new group of managing directors each year, a quick skim of their filings shows they’ve never disclosed what those lives have been worth before. So either it’s a new policy or a new disclosure. Of course, there is a downside for the person on the receiving end of the benefit: they can’t collect unless they’re six feet under.

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