Monday, March 16, 2009


The thing about yesterday's New York Times story about bonuses at AIG is it was really poorly balanced.

On the one hand, it's enraging that the people who ran the financial products division which brought the company to its knees are getting bonuses. (Believe me, I was so enraged my husband was like, "You need to go blog.) On the other, the second half of the article makes clear that lawyers for both the treasury department and AIG could not find a legal way out of the contractual obligations of the bonuses. There was also this: "Mr. Liddy wrote that A.I.G. hoped to reduce its retention bonuses for 2009 by 30 percent. He said the top 25 executives at the financial products division had also agreed to reduce their salary for the rest of 2009 to $1." This is not a small fact, it seems to me, and while the bankers who got bailed out are less than sympathetic, it's clear this article was structured to put AIG in the worst possible light. AIG didn't help matters by having CEO Liddy's talking points on this be "bonuses are necessary to keep experienced people in their place" instead of "These are legal obligations and the highest paid executives will get a salary of $1 in 2009."

I mean, the highest paid executives should also be required to pay back their bonuses, and I think bonuses should be suspended in 2009, and yet the $1 salary is a welcome starting point of at least some restraint.

I want to be clear: I'm not defending AIG here, I'm just noticing the way the Times built the story to foment outrage and there's already plenty of outrage to go around.

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