updated 5/27/2005 7:10:52 AM ET 2005-05-27T11:10:52

Wanna get rich? Try this surefire method.

First, spend twenty years or so clawing your way up the corporate ladder. Get named CEO. Then screw up royally (anything this side of criminal will do.) Get fired. And then, cash in.

Despite the mounting investor fury over excessive CEO compensation — the average CEO earned $10 million in 2004, more than 300 times what an average worker makes — the practice of paying millions to get rid of underperforming or disgraced chief executives remains the norm in corporate America. (Click here to read our recent special report on CEO compensation.)

Dick Grasso, the former head of the New York Stock Exchange, remains the undisputed champion of the golden handshake, pocketing nearly $140 million on his way out the door. Of course, the size of Grasso's payout made it front-page news — and sparked an ongoing legal battle — but dozens of other CEOs quietly pocket millions after getting the boot.

Click here for five of their stories.

© 2012


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