Why do execs get huge bonuses after running their companies into bankruptcy?

After getting “crushed by a mountain of debt” and declaring bankruptcy, Toys R Us execs are seeking approval for $16m in bonuses to pay themselves. WHY?

After getting “crushed by a mountain of debt” and declaring bankruptcy,  Toys R Us execs are seeking approval for $16m in bonuses to pay themselves.

According to the toy chain, this is “standard practice,” and sadly, they’re right: in the event of a corporate collapse, the businessmen at the top of the food chain are frequently awarded multi-million dollar payouts — all while the thousands of hard-working employees beneath them are laid off.

They’re called “bankruptcy bonuses”…

And they’re incredibly common. A WSJ study found that, over a 5 year period, 1.6k execs were rewarded with a collective $1.3B in bonuses — an average of more than $800k a piece — after running their companies into the ground.

Some of the more egregious cases in recent years:

  • After car-parts company Lear Corp. went broke, it paid out $20.6m in bonuses to a handful of top execs, while 20k employees were laid off.
  • Hostess cut its bakers’ salaries by 8% after filing for bankruptcy, but gave its execs raises of 60-100%, in addition to $1.75m in bonuses.
  • Circuit City paid out $2.3m in bonuses while cutting 39k jobs and liquidating their entire inventory.

And of course, let us not forget the titans of bankruptcy bonuses: the Wall Street execs who collectively raked in more than half a billion dollars after the 2008 financial crisis.

How is this legal?

A 2005 federal law restricts companies’ ability to pay execs bonuses during times of restructuring — but, as is often the case for rich folks, there are lots of ways to get around it.

Some companies give their execs “incentive plans” that reward them for hitting benchmarks, and in the fine print of these plans, they classify going through bankruptcy as a bonus-worthy occasion.

Which means, for executive teams, bankruptcies are not just an opportunity to restructure — but to cash in big.

Get the 5-minute roundup you’ll actually read in your inbox​

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less​

Psst

How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

[class^="wpforms-"]
[class^="wpforms-"]
[email-submission-form button-text="Join Free" include-trends-opt-in="true" success-url="https://thehustle.co/new-thank-you-v2/" default-source="thehustleco" default-medium="home-exit-popup" default-campaign="home-page" form-id="exit-popup-general" optinmonster-conversion="true"]
<script type="text/javascript"> var onloadCallback = function() { grecaptcha.render('verify-your-humanity', { 'sitekey' : '6LdddrcZAAAAALyttpvOqiwQGwq5BNhgDz4tMQGE' }); }; function getCookieValue(a) { var b = document.cookie.match('(^|[^;]+)\\s*' + a + '\\s*=\\s*([^;]+)'); return b ? atob(decodeURIComponent(b.pop())) : ''; } function getCookie(name) { var cookieArr = document.cookie.split(";"); for(var i = 0; i < cookieArr.length; i++) { var cookiePair = cookieArr[i].split("="); if(name == cookiePair[0].trim()) { return decodeURIComponent(cookiePair[1]); } } return null; } function setHiddenFieldValue(wrappingDiv, searchParams, className, utmName, cookieName, defaultValue) { var el = wrappingDiv.getElementsByClassName(className)[0]; var existingVal = el.getAttribute('value'); if (utmName == 'ref') { var newVal = searchParams.get(utmName) || getCookie(cookieName); } else { var newVal = searchParams.get(utmName) || getCookieValue(cookieName); } if ((existingVal == null || existingVal == '' || existingVal == defaultValue) && (newVal != null && newVal != '')) { el.setAttribute('value', newVal); } } function setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm( wrappingDiv, searchParams, className, utmName, defaultValue ) { var el = wrappingDiv.getElementsByClassName(className)[0]; if (el != null) { var existingVal = el.getAttribute("value"); var newVal = searchParams.get(utmName); if (newVal != null && newVal != "") { el.setAttribute("value", newVal); } } } function initForm() { var wrappingDivs = document.getElementsByClassName('email-submission'); Array.prototype.forEach.call(wrappingDivs,wrappingDiv => { var sp = new URLSearchParams(window.location.search); setHiddenFieldValue(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-source', 'utm_source', 'funnel_source', 'thehustleco'); setHiddenFieldValue(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-campaign', 'utm_campaign', 'funnel_campaign', 'home-page'); setHiddenFieldValue(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-medium', 'utm_medium', 'funnel_medium', 'home-exit-popup'); setHiddenFieldValue(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-referral', 'ref', 'funnel_referral', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-a', 'a', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-c', 'c', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-o', 'o', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-oc', 'oc', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-e', 'e', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-f', 'f', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-r', 'r', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-t', 't', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-s1', 's1', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-s2', 's2', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-s3', 's3', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-s4', 's4', ''); setHiddenFieldValueFromUtm(wrappingDiv, sp, 'funnel-s5', 's5', ''); var error_message = getCookieValue('validate-email-message'); if (error_message && error_message.trim() != '') { var error = wrappingDiv.getElementsByClassName('funnel-error')[0]; var prev_email = getCookieValue('funnel_email'); error_message = prev_email + " is not valid. Please try again"; error.innerHTML = error_message; error.style = ''; } }); if (false) { initCaptchaFormV2(); } } function initCaptchaFormV2() { var v3RecaptchaResponseEl = document.getElementById('recaptcha-response-v3'); v3RecaptchaResponseEl.parentNode.removeChild(v3RecaptchaResponseEl); var wrappingDiv = document.getElementById('email-submission'); var subForm = wrappingDiv.getElementsByClassName('email-submission')[0]; var captchaVersion = document.createElement('input'); captchaVersion.class = 'g-recaptcha hidden-input'; captchaVersion.type = 'hidden'; captchaVersion.name = 'g-recaptcha-response-v2'; captchaVersion.value = 'true'; subForm.appendChild(captchaVersion); var captchaEl = document.createElement('div'); captchaEl.id = 'verify-your-humanity'; subForm.prepend(captchaEl); var captchaApiScriptEl = document.createElement('script'); captchaApiScriptEl.src = 'https://www.recaptcha.net/recaptcha/api.js?onload=onloadCallback&render=explicit'; captchaApiScriptEl.async = true; captchaApiScriptEl.defer = true; document.head.appendChild(captchaApiScriptEl); } function appendCheckboxes_email_submission() { var wrappingDiv = document.getElementById('email-submission'); var optInDivs = wrappingDiv.querySelectorAll('.trends-opt-in'); optInDivs.forEach(el => { el.style.display = null; if (el.getElementsByClassName('trends-opt-in-checkbox').length < 1) { var checkbox = document.createElement('input'); checkbox.setAttribute('id', 'trends_opt_in_email_submission'); checkbox.setAttribute('class', 'trends-opt-in-checkbox'); checkbox.setAttribute('type', 'checkbox'); checkbox.setAttribute('name', 'trends_opt_in'); var label = document.createElement('label'); label.setAttribute('for', 'trends_opt_in_email_submission'); label.setAttribute('class', 'trends-opt-in-text'); label.textContent = "Yes, I'd like to receive additional emails on hot business opportunities from Trends, by the Hustle"; el.appendChild(checkbox); el.appendChild(label); checkbox.click(); } }) } window.addEventListener('DOMContentLoaded', (event) => { initForm(); if (true) { appendCheckboxes_email_submission(); } }); if(typeof hp_interval == 'undefined') { var hp_interval = 0; var hp_ts = 0; var hp_try = 0; jQuery(document).ready(function ($) { hp_interval = setInterval(function(){ $('input.hp_ts').val(hp_ts); hp_ts += 1; if(hp_ts >= 30) { clearInterval(hp_interval); } },1000); $('.email-submission:not(.prevent-default)').submit(function (e) { var form = $(this); if(hp_ts < 3 && hp_try < 1) { e.preventDefault(); if (form.find('.email-form-submit-message').length < 1) { form.find('.email-form-wrap').after('<p class="email-form-submit-message" style="padding: 0em 1.5em;">Too fast! Are you a human? Try again please.</p>'); } hp_try += 1; hp_ts = 0; $('input.hp_try').val(hp_try); } }); }); } </script> <div class="email-signup" id=email-submission> <div class="funnel-error" style="display:none;"></div> <form class="email-submission " id="exit-popup-general" action="https://cms.thehustle.co/api/v1/contacts/wordpress_create" method="post" autocomplete="email"> <div class="email-form-wrap"> <input class="funnel-source hidden-input" type="hidden" name="source" value="daily"> <input class="funnel-campaign hidden-input" type="hidden" name="campaign" value="12/1 - Toys R Us"> <input class="funnel-medium hidden-input" type="hidden" name="medium" value="email"> <input class="funnel-form-id hidden-input" type="hidden" name="form-id" value="exit-popup-general"> <input class="funnel-referral hidden-input" type="hidden" name="referral_code"> <input class="funnel-fail-url hidden-input" type="hidden" name="fail_url" value=""> <input class="funnel-a hidden-input" type="hidden" name="a" value=""> <input class="funnel-c hidden-input" type="hidden" name="c" value=""> <input class="funnel-o hidden-input" type="hidden" name="o" value=""> <input class="funnel-oc hidden-input" type="hidden" name="oc" value=""> <input class="funnel-e hidden-input" type="hidden" name="e" value=""> <input class="funnel-f hidden-input" type="hidden" name="f" value=""> <input class="funnel-r hidden-input" type="hidden" name="r" value=""> <input class="funnel-t hidden-input" type="hidden" name="t" value=""> <input class="funnel-s1 hidden-input" type="hidden" name="s1" value=""> <input class="funnel-s2 hidden-input" type="hidden" name="s2" value=""> <input class="funnel-s3 hidden-input" type="hidden" name="s3" value=""> <input class="funnel-s4 hidden-input" type="hidden" name="s4" value=""> <input class="funnel-s5 hidden-input" type="hidden" name="s5" value=""> <input class="funnel-success-url hidden-input" type="hidden" name="success_url" value="https://thehustle.co/new-thank-you-v2/"> <input id="recaptcha-response-v3" class="g-recaptcha hidden-input" type="hidden" name="g-recaptcha-response" value=""> <div class="signup-icon" style="display:none;"> <svg width="24" viewBox="0 0 24 24" fill="none" xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg"><path d="M22 6c0-1.1-.9-2-2-2H4c-1.1 0-2 .9-2 2v12c0 1.1.9 2 2 2h16c1.1 0 2-.9 2-2V6Zm-2 0-8 5-8-5h16Zm0 12H4V8l8 5 8-5v10Z" fill="#848B92"></path></svg> </div> <input type="hidden" name="hp_ts" class="hp_ts" value="0"> <input type="hidden" name="hp_try" class="hp_try" value="0"> <input type="text" name="first_name" placeholder="Enter your name" value=""> <input class="signup-email" type="email" name="email" placeholder="Your email address" required autocomplete="email"> <input class="email-submit om-trigger-conversion" type="submit" value="Join Free"> </div> <div class="validate-mistake-emails-message" style="display:none;"></div> <div class="trends-opt-in" style="display:none;"></div> <div submit-success> <template type="amp-mustache"> <p class="c-message c-message--success">Thank you for subscribing.</p> </template> </div> <div submit-error> <template type="amp-mustache"> <p class="c-message c-message--failed">Your submission failed. Please try again!</p> </template> </div> </form> </div>