There aren’t enough faces, palms, heads or desks to handle this statement from AIG CEO Bob Benmosche. After taxpayers had to spend $85 billion to keep his company from bankruptcy, people were understandably upset when they then paid out $165 million in executive bonuses before paying back that money. Benmosche says that was a lynch mob just like blacks faced in the south:
“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 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.“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.”
First they came for the investment bankers, but I said nothing, for I was not an investment banker. Then they came for the hedge fund managers…of course, they came for them in a stretch limousine.