The CEO of AIG is angry about the anger over massive executive bonuses, a constant refrain of the middle and working class following the massive global financial meltdown and the concept of “too big to fail” bailouts.
As AIG and several other massive firms threatened to go down and take the economy with them, the US government was forced to step in and save firms deemed too big to go under on their own lest the rest of the American people fall beneath them.
And so we got TARP, a program that bailed banks out to the tune of hundreds of billions — at least $700 billion to be exact. But while rampant gambling and knowing sale of toxic assets were exposed, executives for the firms that crumbled and required a massive welfare check from Uncle Sam still received the enormous bonuses to which they’d become accustomed. And, by and large, still continue to reap massive “profit based” bonuses on top of huge salaries.
While AIG was one of the big names heavily linked with the fall of the banking industry’s house of cards, current CEO Robert Benmosche has no qualms about lambasting Americans for their outrage in the wake of the meltdown — one from which the US has not yet fully recovered.
Of the then-outrage, he explains that young AIG execs forced to clean up the mess shouldn’t have been made to suffer, and said in a WSJ piece over the weekend:
“Now you have these bright young people [in the financial-products unit] who had nothing to do with [the bad bets that hurt the company.]… They understand the derivatives very well; they understand the complexity…. They’re all scared. They [had made] good livings. They probably lived beyond their means… They aren’t going to stay there for nothing.”
The piece continues, partially quoting the AIG CEO on massive bonuses as he compares the climate at the time to a pre-civil rights America — you know, the place where Emmett Till was lynched and tortured for a perceived pass made at a white woman. The WSJ explains:
“The uproar over bonuses ‘was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that–sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.’ “
Just as wrong. As lynching people, who died hanged by nooses from trees, he explains casually. Benmosche adds:
“We wouldn’t be here today had they not stayed and accepted… dramatically reduced pay… They really contributed an enormous amount [to AIG’s survival] and proved to the world they are good people. It is a shame we put them through that.”
Just when you thought nothing could ever be dumber than Charlie Munger’s “Suck it In and Cope” line… http://t.co/5GCwBq4sru
— Matt Taibbi (@mtaibbi) September 24, 2013
You can read the AIG CEO’s comparison of executive bonus outlash to permissible murder here on the WSJ’s site.