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AIG, Congress share the blame in bonuses fiasco

By Staff | Mar 27, 2009

“Greed is good.”

That was the belief of unscrupulous corporate raider Gordon Gekko, played by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone’s 1987 criticially-acclaimed movie, “Wall Street.”

Greed is what

drives corporate America, Gekko continued. Unfortunately, in this movie, it was greed that ultimately was his downfall. Sometimes real life does imitate art.

It was widely reported recently that financial corporation AIG (American International Group), Inc. gave $165 million in bonuses to its top executives just months after the federal government awarded the sinking company over $5 billion in taxpayer bailout money in the wake of last year’s financial crisis.

Whether or not those AIG executives deserved bonuses, this was not the time to be handing them out, and for that the company’s image is deservedly getting beaten up.

With massive layoffs, high unemployment and an economy spinning its wheels, AIG should have taken the high road.

However, there are others who share the blame for this train wreck.

When the $800 million stimulus bill was approved earlier this year by Congress and signed into law by President Obama, a provision that would have prevented AIG from paying bonuses with public funds was inexplicably taken out of the spending bill.

So congressional leaders and the President should not have been so surprised when the news hit that AIG had handed out the bonuses. Nevertheless, outraged politicians lined up to criticize AIG’s actions, and that only fueled more public outcry.

Some lawmakers wanted swift action, introducing legislation that would levy large taxes on corportate bonuses, in an effort to recoup some of the taxpay-

ers’ money – money they apparently allowed to be spent with few strings attached.

AIG was greedy in its decision to pay its executives using taxpayers’ money. Lawmakers failed to stop it when they could have.

Both are to blame.

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