BP has confirmed that former chief executive Lord Browne has had his £1.4m leaving payment put on hold pending the outcome of legal action in the US.
Lord Browne had been with BP since 1966
The legal challenge by BP investors relates to the firm's 2006 oil spill in Alaska, and accuses Lord Browne and other BP bosses of mismanagement.
The withheld funds could be used to pay damages sought by the shareholders if their legal bid is successful.
BP said Lord Browne's pension and shares were unaffected.
The company's outgoing refining chief John Manzoni has also had his $460,000 one-off leaving payment withheld.
Lord Browne left the firm in May following newspaper revelations about his personal life.
He was due to depart this month, after earlier saying he would quit the top job when he hit BP's standard retirement age of 60 in February 2008.
Before the scandal surrounding his relationship with a Canadian man, critics said the decision to bring forward Lord Browne's departure was caused by a number of other problems.
In part it had been brought forward by both the Alaskan spill at BP Prudhoe Bay facility, and the fatal explosion at its Texas City refinery that killed 15 people in 2003.
BP has already admitted that were some safety shortfalls at the company, which it is now continuing to put right.
The Alaskan spill released at least 200,000 gallons of oil.
Lord Brown joined BP in 1966, rising steadily to become chief executive in 1995.