When CEOs Play Santa

Companies are racing to pay dividends before the fiscal cliff

As any holiday shopper knows, cash is an easy gift. This season, some of America's biggest companies are feeling the giving spirit. From Whole Foods and Costco to Las Vegas Sands and Dish Network, dozens of big names are rushing to hand out extra money to shareholders before year's end in the form of special dividends. Why the sudden generosity? Two words: fiscal cliff. If Congress and the White House fail to reach a budget deal by the Dec. 31 deadline, it isn't just income tax rates that will automatically rise. Stock dividends would be taxed as high as 43% instead...

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