It's not that Crutchfield needed an extra $1.8 million a year, after tax, plus generous use of the company plane and a bunch of other perks. His basic retirement package would allow him to live more than comfortably for the rest of his life. The gift will cost the bank at least $4 million a year.

Yet, in a Nov. 30 memo, First Union told its employees that it planned to save $377 million a year by not providing employees with cash advances for travel purposes, by forcing many of them to take red-eye flights instead of flying first class, and by cutting back on the internal use of color copies.

So while hard-working executives are cramped in narrow seats on their cross-country flights, Crutchfield gets 120 hours of free time for his personal flights on the corporate jet.

We are aware that Crutchfield is ill, and truly have sympathy for him. But how much does he need? And what impact does this "gift" have on staff morale and what impression does it make on already disgruntled shareholders?

And it certainly doesn't help Ken Thompson, the new CEO, establish the impression that he's his own man.


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