Dick Cheney, the GOP nominee for vice president, won an early-retirement stock package worth $33.7 million from Halliburton Co., a Texas energy firm where he served for five years as chief executive, according to figures released by the company Wednesday.
Democrats attacked Cheney’s retirement package last weekend when it was estimated to be $20 million. On Wednesday, they renewed their attacks on Cheney and GOP presidential nominee George W. Bush as tools of the oil industry.
“When it comes to fighting the oil companies for reasonable gas prices and clean air, we know which side Bush and Cheney will be on,” said Douglas Hattaway, a spokesman for Al Gore’s presidential campaign.
Hattaway also used Cheney’s retirement package to cast the GOP ticket as beholden to the wealthy.
“Bush’s massive tax cut for the rich is just what the doctor ordered for Dick Cheney,” he said.
Bush campaign officials have cast Cheney’s retirement package as an asset for the GOP because they say it shows he was a successful manager of a private company.
If he’s elected vice president, Cheney’s retirement package could become controversial.
Under the terms of his retirement, Cheney would be barred from cashing as much as $6 million worth of his stock options for up to three years. As a result, Cheney could be serving as vice president while he receives huge sums from an oil services company with operations in the Middle East and other areas of political conflict around the globe.
Cheney, who was Halliburton’s chairman and chief executive officer, recognized the potential problem in a one-sentence statement he released through a spokeswoman Wednesday.
“I will do whatever I need to do to avoid any conflict of interest,” he said.
An aide who declined to be identified said Cheney would review the package with his lawyers and accountants to make sure he complies with ethics laws and avoids any appearance of conflict.
The board of directors at Halliburton approved Cheney’s retirement package July 25, the day Bush named him as his running mate, but the company kept the terms secret for three weeks. It released a two-page statement summarizing the terms Wednesday. The value of Cheney’s retirement package will fluctuate with the price of Halliburton stock.
Cheney, who met with Halliburton executives in Houston on Wednesday, leaves the company with a three-layer package of stock and stock options. First, the board lifted a time restriction on 140,000 shares of stock, allowing Cheney to sell them at any time. They would be worth $7.6 million at Wednesday’s closing price of $54.02 per share.
Next, the board approved 760,000 shares of stock options for Cheney to cash in at any time over the next several years. Those shares would be worth $20 million at Wednesday’s price. Finally, the board signed off on 400,000 shares of stock options that will vest gradually over the next three years. At Wednesday’s price, they would be worth $6.1 million.