Iowa Senator Suggests AIG Executive Suicide
Iowa Senator Charles Grassley came up with an alternative to AIG's handing out bonuses to the execs who drove the insurance giant into the ground: seppuku.
Obviously Grassley isn't serious, but he's only saying what a lot of people are thinking: not only should AIG executives forego any bonuses, but they should also join the unemployment line.
"But I would suggest the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better toward them if they'd follow the Japanese example and come before the American people and take that deep bow and say, I'm sorry, and then either do one of two things: resign or go commit suicide.
"And in the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology."
The Grassley episode illustrates the perils of populism. Grassley, like most national officeholders, saw the outrage brewing at AIG's awarding of bonuses to the folks who almost threw capitalism off the rails, and wanted to express his anger. But, because he is a Republican and his political sense is a little off, Grassley's anger - joke? - comes across as way, way over the top. Outrage only gets you so far. It ends up being counterproductive. Anger doesn't tell you how to solve problems. It lets you stew in resentment.
Take the money and run: 11 AIG employees who received bonuses have subsequently left the company.
"My colleagues and I are sending a letter to [AIG CEO Edward] Liddy informing him that he can go right ahead and tell the employees that are scheduled to get bonuses that they should voluntarily return them," Sen. Charles Schumer said on the Senate floor. "Because if they don't, we plan to tax virtually all of [the money] ... so it is returned to its rightful owners, the taxpayers."
Schumer's comments came the same day New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo confirmed in a letter to Congress that AIG paid 73 employees bonuses of more than $1 million each.
Cuomo also wrote that 11 of the employees no longer work for the company. The largest bonus paid was $6.4 million; seven other people also received more than $4 million each.
The discussions are at an early stage, partly because the government has not yet issued specific rules on the bonus payments that will be allowed at companies that received aid under the government's Troubled Asset Relief Program, the paper said.
My own opinion: I think that not giving these guys bonuses is a decent third option, a sort of compromise between big bonuses and ritual suicide.