Following his company's recently announced merger with Stanley Works (NYSE:SWK), departing Black & Decker (NYSE:BDK) CEO Nolan Archibald was entitled to a $20.5 million golden parachute on his way out the door. To nearly everyone's surprise, he's turning down that little perk. That's exciting news for any investors outraged by golden parachutes.

These well-padded parting gifts often ensure that CEOs draw handsome rewards for even the most miserable failures. Before its buyout by Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), Merrill Lynch's Stan O'Neal vacated the brokerage's top spot with a $161.5 million farewell. And Bob Nardelli left Home Depot (NYSE:HD) in a mess, but still collected $210 million for his efforts. Perverse incentives like these have led great investment thinkers such as Berkshire Hathaway's (NYSE:BRK-A) (NYSE:BRK-B) Warren Buffett to question corporate America's compensation habits.

Thankfully, Archibald's not alone in forgoing one last feed at the shareholder trough. Last year, Aflac's (NYSE:AFL) CEO Dan Amos similarly said that if he's booted, he won't accept any sort of gilded bailout.

That said, as heartening as Archibald's gesture is, he won't exactly leave the CEO chair unrewarded. He'll be staying on at the combined company as executive chairman of the board of directors, and he'll earn $1.5 million every year, with the possibility of a $1.9 million annual bonus. Add on stock options, a Black & Decker pension of $35.5 million, $15.7 million in a supplemental retirement plan, a "cost synergy bonus" of $45 million if cost-cutting efficiencies are achieved, and ... well, you get the drift.

Still, he could have taken a $20.5 million golden parachute on top of all that. It may not be the biggest sacrifice, but perhaps Archibald's refusal to take this extra payout signals the first stirrings of some broader shift in CEOs' consciences. And Archibald, at least, is departing after a long and successful tenure, having won praise for turning Black & Decker around when he arrived in the 1980s. Going out in a successful merger is hardly a shameful fate.

I'm glad to see that some executives will turn down golden parachutes, knowing that they're already getting more than enough in salary, bonuses, and assorted other goodies. Still, shareholders should remember that even when a CEO refuses one hefty payday, he or she may still be collecting plenty of others.

Is Archibald's move magnanimous, or slightly disingenuous? Is it a step in the right direction, or just an empty public relations gesture? What do you think of golden parachutes overall? Let us know in the comment boxes below.