BBC Trust chairman Chris Patten said Wednesday that the size of payoffs given to senior staff at the corporation was a cause of "shock and dismay" as he was hauled before MPs.
Patten was questioned by the Commons Public Accounts Committee along with BBC bosses over the ??25 million paid to 150 outgoing executives in the three years up to December 2012.
The figures were revealed in a report by the National Audit Office (NAO) earlier this month which said that the BBC breached its own rules on severance payments, putting public trust at risk.
Severance payments awarded to senior managers since 2005 have totalled ??60 million, the report said, with many packages exceeding contractual requirements.
The NAO also acknowledged, however, that savings made by the redundancies exceeded the cost of severance packages.
Patten suggested some payments were agreed to "get people out of the door" to cut the number of senior managers at the BBC.
Patten, who said he was previously unaware that some payoffs breached the BBC's own policies, said: "It's not only the licence fee payer that has been shocked by what's happened, it's people who work for the BBC."
He also suggested that previous BBC chiefs may have more information about the payoffs than he did.
Patten defended the ??450,000 payoff given to Thomson's successor, George Entwistle, who stood down in the wake of the Jimmy Saville abuse scandal, after only weeks in the job.
The BBC's new director general Tony Hall announced proposals in April to cap redundancy payments at ??150,000, or 12 months' salary.
Hall, who was also being questioned by the committee Wednesday, has previously said he believed the BBC "lost its way on payments in recent years".
"These payments were from another era and we are putting a stop to them," he said in response to the NAO report.
BBC Trust member Anthony Fry told MPs that the governing body was not always involved in decision-making, adding: "People like me were asked in not particularly pleasant words to get back into our box".