Wednesday, March 18, 2009

So Much For Those Retention Bonuses

In what was quite possibly one of the worst justifications for giving the very folks who have run AIG into the ground a "bonus", Edward M. Liddy said that the "bonuses" were necessary if AIG was to retain "the best and the brightest" employees. I pointed out the other day that clearly AIG does not have "the best and the brightest"! If the current state of AIG is any indication of what "the best and the brightest" can do, I'd really like to give the "not bad and half witted" or "the worst and the dumbest" a shot at running the show over there. You know, just so we can really see the difference between the two because really, at the point, I don't think there is a difference.

But that aside, the taxpayers are getting dry shaved on this one for sure. My vision of our future razor burn stems from an article in the New York Times that ran on Tuesday. The article began: "73 employees were paid more than $1 million in the newly minted bonuses at the insurance giant American International Group, according to Andrew M. Cuomo, the attorney general of New York." Um, holy crap, what was that? 73 people? Who? Who are they? I want names! Actually, I want heads, but you have to start with a name before you get the head. The name IS the head!

"Mr. Cuomo did not name the bonus recipients..." Um, holy crap, what was that? He's not naming them? But I need heads! I mean names! I need names!! WHY is he not naming them? Maybe (but not likely) it's because he's busy rambling off stunning figures such as:
  • The highest bonus was $6.4 million
  • 6 other employees received more than $4 million
  • Another 15 people received more than $2 million
  • Another 51 people received $1 million to $2 million

Holy crap. What?

  • The top ten bonus recipients received a combined total of $42 million
  • 22 individuals received $2 million or more.
  • Those 22 combined received more than $72 million
  • 73 received more than $1 million

How's that dry shaving feel? Burn yet? Ass chafed enough? No? Not quite? Perhaps this shall do it:

  • 11 of those who received $1 million or more are no longer working at A.I.G.
  • That includes one who received $4.6 million.

Wait a minute! 11 are no longer working at the company?! But....according to AIG, they were "the best and the brightest"! According to AIG, they had to get that kind of money in order to stay at the company.

Hey, how is this even possible? They received that money on Sunday! SUNDAY! It's Wednesday! That article in The New York Times was wrote on Tuesday! They quit before Tuesday?! I don't think they did.

You folks are clearly not one of "the best and the brightest" liars out there. That was a poor attempt at lying at best, really. :::: sigh :::: What to do? What to do? Oh, well! Here's a million dollars anyway! Nice try! Can't win 'em all! See ya Monday! Or not! Whatever! Here's your money! (Hey, that's how it goes at AIG. Are they hiring?)

And the reason the Mr. Cuomo is not naming the folks who received their undeserved bonus is because AIG won't tell him. Shocking, I know. Another thing that you may or may not find shocking is that when AIG said that they had to pay the bonuses because they were contractually obligated to do so and that they had consulted with lawyers who told them that, they only consulted with their own lawyers. Not outside counsel, not the Treasury, their own lawyers. Then they told Tim Geithner that and he basically said, "Bummer."

Until we get the names of the other heads, I'm perfectly OK with Tim's for now. You look worried there, Tim.Tim, you just took what they said about the legality of it all at face value? You didn't have someone else, someone who, perhaps, didn't work for AIG look at things? Where are you and your outrage? Why is Andrew Cuomo suddenly the guy leading the charge? Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled that Andrew Cuomo is on top of this one. That's the most sensible thing I've heard that's being done about this whole mess probably in the past year. But Tim, you're Secretary of the Treasury!! Well, for now. Who knows? Anyway....

So now what? You're not going to believe me when I tell you, so I don't know if it matters. But please, try to think of the irony in the next step. Please try to see the humor (as if it were not actually happening in real life). Because if you can do those two things, it might prevent you from hanging yourself. Might. I make no promises. Here's what the article says: "....the White House said on Monday that the Treasury would write new requirements about the bonus money in the next $30 billion that it provides to the insurance giant."

Oh. My. God.

The NEXT $30 BILLION?!?!?! Are you effing kidding me?!!? That we GIVE them?!?! AGAIN?!?! MORE??!?!?! And what's with the writing of "new requirements?!" From what I can tell, there weren't any old requirements! From what I can tell there weren't any requirements at all! Shouldn't that read "would write requirements about the bonus money"??

I can't believe that is their solution! To give them more money! What in the hell do these brainstorming sessions with the White House folks sound like?? I'm picturing Tim Geithner at the head of a large table, glistening from a sound buffing with a gallon of Pledge, surrounded by people who are trying to look like they're paying attention, but they're really checking their Blackberries, updating their Facebook page, watching a water skiing squirrel on YouTube and sending obscene Twitter tweets. They don't care what Tim is saying, but I think it has to be something along the lines of:

"Boy, they sure got us this time, didn't they? Well, let's just see them try that with the next round of money we give them. What's the score? AIG: 3; White House: 0 ? We'll get 'em. Somehow. What are we doing different this time? Is there a strongly worded memo? I think we should try a strongly worded memo. Oh! And have Barack give that speech about how he'll be disappointed if they do this again! Yeah, we'll shame them into not screwing us. And "or else"! There has to be an "or else!" in there somewhere. What's that? Oh. No, I don't really know "or else" what? But it doesn't matter. That'll scare them so bad that they wouldn't dare do that again! We won't even have to think about "or else" because it'll be fine. OK, so we have the strongly worded memo, the "or else!" and the disappointment speech made with a stern look with just a touch of finger pointing. That should do 'er. Whew! I'm beat. Who's up for beer pong?"

Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to Barney Frank, the Chairman of the House Committee of Financial Services which detailed what his office has uncovered in the workings of AIG and encouraged them to address the issue. My question is: What in the hell does the House Committee of Financial Services do? Because from what I can tell, none of these House Committees do anything until after something has fallen apart and even then all they do is bark irrelevant questions at them during some faux hearing for the purposes of appearing outraged. If they were truly outraged, they would start implementing some preventative procedures instead of always showing up for loss assessment.

You know, at the beginning of all of this, before AIG received any money at all, we were told by Henry Paulson, et al, that we had to bail them out and we had to do it soon otherwise it would be an utter disaster. He stressed repeatedly that it had to be done immediately lest we face our imminent doom. About 6 weeks later, they got their money. To my knowledge and recollection, there was not "imminent doom" in the interim. My point is, what's the hurry? Slow down there, cowboy. There needs to be a little bit of time invested into figuring out what could generate the least amount of waste. There also needs to be not a little, but a lot of effort invested as well. Sometimes things take way too long, but it's only because people are effing around. Effort. The folks who are doling out this cash need to act like they give a flying F about it, because they don't. And the Obama administration needs to get over themselves and start walking their walk because I'm tired of hearing them talk their talk. Pipe down and whip out some of that 'change' that we distinctly remember being promised. Because all of this seems like the same incompetence that we've grown sadly accustomed to.

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Ruth@VS said...

Over here in Britland, run by the "Nerd" Prime Minister (as named by John Stewart), we had our bonus angst a little while ago, aggravated by the outrageous pension given to the former head of a failed bank.

The 'best and the brightest' tag makes me laugh - the 'drunkest and the greediest' is more appropriate. Neither your government nor ours managed (or tried very hard) to prevent stupid money being paid by us to the idiots who got us into this mess. Aargh!

grannyann said...

I just get so sick of the lies and the excuses and the people who don't pay their taxes or get money from lobbyists. Can't anyone say "Yes I did it and I screwed up." I say let each state pay for their member of congress and no raises, no lobby money and their taxes are posted on line each year.

Mare said...

You've got that right, Ruth. No one managed, nor tried very hard to prevent anything. Over here we have "Oversight Committees" which are supposed to be watching the various industries so that this doesn't happen. They should change their name to "Overlook Committees" because they've managed to overlook just about everything so far.

I find the each state paying for its own members of Congress an intriguing one, though without the no lobbyist/lobbyist money, I don't think it would have a chance. I learned recently that there was a "no raises" clause at some point. Yeah, they voted to change that! (hit head here)

I'm pretty sure that they have to report all of their gifts and expenses each year and that they're posted online somewhere.

And I too am tired of everyone acting like this is something that was done TO THEM, as if it was something that HAPPENED TO THEM, rather than something THEY could have prevented. They speak as if this whole crisis just blew in here like Katrina (and is now being handled in a like fashion).

I'll tell you, Canada, America's Hat, is looking pretty good right about now!

~ M