McKesson's Moolah

Thank you, Wall Street Journal, for your detailed reporting on McKesson ( MCK) CEO John Hammergren's record-setting pension. Try as we might, there was no way we here at the Dumbest Lab could have made those calculations.

We simply can't count that high.

Hammergren, who started at the drug distributor back in 1996 and became co-CEO in 1999, would have pocketed $159 million had he voluntarily retired from the company on March 31, according to the WSJ. The Journal's compensation consultants proclaimed it the largest pension kitty on file for current CEOs, and undoubtedly the biggest retirement plan in corporate history.

Take that, Dick Grasso! You thought your $126 million parting gift from the NYSE was hairy, but Hammergren's deal totally hammers your pissant package.

To be fair, Grasso was a quasi-civil servant who was forced to scratch by on his salary during lean years like 2001 when he pulled in $25.6 million, so he needed the big nest egg.

Not so for Hammergren, who ranks atop Forbes CEO salary list with a six-year average compensation of $50.79 million. Over the past five years, he's been paid $285 million dollars, which makes us think that his pension plan may be a wee bit over the top.

Of course, McKesson investors may argue that their own 401(k) accounts have been sufficiently plumped by the stock's growth during Hammergren's reign. McKesson's stock price has more than tripled in his 14 years atop the company, outperforming the S&P 500 along the way.

That said, the vast majority of that outperformance vs. the index has been since 2006, when the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act officially kicked in. Familiarly known as the prescription drug act, it expanded coverage nationwide and introduced an entitlement benefit for well-known drugs through tax breaks and subsidies.

It also seems to have given McKesson a sense of entitlement as well. The drug wholesaler paid the federal government $190 million in 2012, and tens of millions more to the states on top of that, to settle lawsuits that it illegally inflated drug prices.

If you look at it that way, Hammergren owes a lot of his success -- and retirement riches -- not just to McKesson's boorish board and cockeyed compensation consultants, but to George W. Bush for signing that act into law. Maybe he should buy one of W's paintings or donate some of his pension pile to his presidential library to show his appreciation.

As for McKesson shareholders, though, maybe they should ask for some of their money back. Or at least press the board for answers as to why Hammergren is seeing all that green that should be going to them.

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