How AIG Will Fail By Not Paying Bonuses

When you sweep aside the stupid policies and bad politics of the AIG bonuses, what’s left is a company unwilling to honor its agreement with employees. Would you want to work for a company like that in any economy? One AIG executive doesn’t, and he explains it very well.

Behind every grandstanding politician and multi-hour congressional hearing there is an AIG employee who actually stayed with the company through tough times because they were promised a bonus … in many cases a bonus in absence of their yearly salary. This New York Times op-ed piece is an actual resignation letter from an AIG employee resigning over the company’s failure to stick to their end of the bargain.

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

At one time I was paid a retention bonus by my company … nothing the size or scope of the AIG executive bonus, but enough to make me think twice about leaving during the good’ol days of the tech boom. If they had failed to honor that agreement, I would have likely quit on principle. Even when the change in the tech market reduced the need for such a retention bonus to keep a majority of our talent, the company honored its promise.

I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down.

When Congress hastily agreed to bail out AIG, they did not limit their ability to pay our bonuses. AIG used less than one percent of the bailout funds to honor existing agreements with employees. While many will blame any money-maker at AIG for the economic downturn, it’s more complex than one man with one financial formula. AIG needs to succeed to payback the money the government unwisely used to prop it up, and it needs motivated workers to make money in this market.

Failing to honor corporate contracts is a matter of trust, and AIG breaks that trust each time it caves in and tries to reclaim bonuses paid to employees in good faith.

Failing to honor tax law and the constitution is also a matter of trust, and the government breaks it with the public each time it meddles in the affairs of private companies using public funds … or proposes unconstitutional retroactive taxes for one specific segment of the population.

If Congress doesn’t like what AIG did with the bailout money, then congratulations … your representative now knows how it feels to be a US taxpayer with no real control of how our money is spent. The difference it that Congress can try to pass special laws to get their money back, or demonize companies until their employees attach bonus checks to their resignation letters.

One AIG employee loses a yaer of his life working for a non-existent bonus.
AIG loses the trust of their remaining employees.
Congress loses the trust of the American taxpayer.
Nobody wins here.

2 Replies to “How AIG Will Fail By Not Paying Bonuses”

  1. This guy just cashed a check for $750K of your money, and then wrote a NYT op-ed complaining because people said mean things about him, and your response is to feel sorry for him? It takes a special kind of chump to defend the guy who just chumped you, chump.

  2. Actually, I don’t feel like a “chump” because this man received a check per the agreement he made before the bailout with his employer.

    I feel like a “chump” because the government gave this “too big to fail” organization 1,000 more that they paid out in bonuses to use as a crutch, and I have no proper recourse to fix it.

    If it was just AIG I have a quick and easy way to stop supporting them … sell their stock from my portfolio and cancel any insurance I have with them. When the Treasury Department or Congress does dumb stuff, I have no immediate recourse. I can’t stop paying taxes since the government can use force to make me pay. I can’t vote the treasury secretary out of office, and I can only stop supporting a small portion of Congress because of the way we bring representatives to office.

    So I’m a chump because of the political and tax system we allow to exist in office, not because of one man’s agreement with his private employer.

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