U.S. CEO Departures Hit Record in 2006; Options Backdating Claims 54

A record total of 1,347 chief executives at U.S. companies, including 113 in November, departed in the first 11 months of this year, compared with the previous record level 1,322 CEO departures in all of 2005, according to outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. 

The growing stock options backdating scandal "is spreading like a virus," according to Challenger, Gray head John Challenger, and has contributed to the turmoil, as 15 CEOs have lost their jobs over questionable options practices in the past two months alone.

In total, 54 high-ranking executives -- including CEOs, chief financial officers and general counsels -- have stepped down amid probes into options awards, according to the Challenger, Gray tally.

The health care industry has seen the biggest CEO turnover this year, with 214 departures. Other industries with many CEO changes include the computer business, with 148, and financial services, with 113.

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