Earn-outs, those additional contingency payments that executives at firms being acquired can earn if specified certain targets are met in the future, are nothing new within the financial services industry. But the earn-out terms of Amvescap's recently announced acquisition of PowerShares Capital Management have raised some eyebrows, as they are extremely optimistic and extend over a five-year period.

While Amvescap, of London and Atlanta, will pay the principals of PowerShares, of Wheaton, Ill., $60 million in cash at the closing, additional contingency payments could push that figure as high as $730 million if PowerShares' assets surpass $125 billion by 2011. That's a tall order, since PowerShares' assets would have to increase 3,500% from their current $3.5 billion level.

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