As Qwest, the Denver-based telecommunications company, and CenturyLink are working out the conditions of their merger, which will affect hundreds of thousands of customers, top executives reaped millions of dollars in tax breaks just before Christmas. The Qwest execs will get stock and cash compensation that they otherwise wouldn’t have received until the merger with CenturyLink was closer to completion—sometime in 2011. The move enables the executives to avoid paying a 20 percent nondeductible excise tax, according to The Denver Post. The company says the maneuver will “preserve economic benefits to our shareholders,” but company officials, including chief executive Ed Mueller, will clearly benefit financially.

Michelle Leder, founder of Morningstar’s business site writes that Qwest claims, “‘We’re doing this in the name of protecting our shareholders,’ but the people who seem most to benefit are quite frankly the top executives.” Footnoted writes that Qwest has been “in many ways” the inspiration for the site’s online reporting, winning dubious, multiple entries for worst footnote of the year, and the telecom company “just won’t go quietly” into mergerland. Footnoted opines that Qwest’s notice of the plan with the Securities and Exchange Commission is worth reading in full “since it kind of reminds us of the justifications that we make when we’ve spent a bit too much money at the mall: We’re really saving money because everything is on sale for 50 percent.”