While companies have been busy closing, freezing or even terminating defined benefit (DB) plans for employees, there is one group that still seems to have a guaranteed retirement package awaiting them: CEOs at Standard & Poor's 500 companies. According to watchdog group The Corporate Library, at least half of the S&P 500 CEOs–some 258 chief executives–are in line to receive about $2.6 billion worth of DB retirement payouts. That's an average of $10.1 million each–and the numbers may even be higher.

The information is based on reviews of proxy statements from 353 member companies of the S&P 500. In April, these companies–all with fiscal years ending December 31, 2006–had to comply with new Securities and Exchange Commission rules forcing more transparent disclosure on executive compensation. Those that operate on non-calendar fiscal years will reveal the detailed information in coming months, so the numbers of both CEOs and the amount they are eligible to receive will almost inevitably rise.

Much of this generous DB disbursement comes in the form of pension-like Supplementary Executive Retirement Plans. SERPS, which are entirely funded by the corporation and don't include equity contributions, are less regulated than traditional pension plans. They also carry higher caps, so companies can lavish even more benefits on executives than otherwise allowed.

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