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Opinion editorial
Golden parachutes for a lead balloon

By David Tanner, Senior Editor

The boondoggle that is the Indiana Toll Road continues to take. And take and take. Now word has come down that a handful of top executives from the private company that operates the toll road stand to split a $1 million golden parachute on the back end of their bankruptcy trial.

Wait a minute. The folks who racked up billions in debts and declared bankruptcy just eight years into a 75-year lease will somehow cash in once they give the road back to the state?

How could this happen?

Well, perhaps it’s because this was one of the worst roadway contracts ever signed – one of those deep pains that tollpayers and taxpayers will feel for decades to come.

According to documents from the bankruptcy trial of the Indiana Toll Road Concession Co., the Spanish-Australian firm that famously leased the toll road in 2006 for $3.8 billion, the golden parachute awaits the top four or five executives if the toll road fetches enough money on the resale to another investor.

Specifically, if a new company comes along and bids $4.5 billion to take over the lease, the outgoing executives split a cool million. If a bidder comes along and offers $6 billion for the road, the bonus pool stands to double to $2 million.

Oh, and this executive bonus pool is separate from another payout to lower level managers that totals nearly $750,000.

The court documents say the executives deserve bonuses for helping the state and future operator transition to the future.

I guess a lead balloon requires a lot of golden parachutes to come back to earth. They should have just let it fall.

The now infamous lease of the Indiana Toll Road was nothing more than pawnshop mentality in the beginning and has cost users millions. For what? Only to see the road turned over to someone else for more of the same.

Anyone who tells you this was a good deal for highway users is somehow in on the joke or stands to gain from other like-minded projects.

I suppose there’s a chance that a brand-new deal could improve accountability and perhaps keep toll rates in check for truckers and other users. But we’ll only believe that when we see it happen, and until then this bankruptcy proceeding deserves every ounce of scrutiny it’s been getting. LL