If you’re anything like me and I suspect like most of us, you know about the scandal surrounding AIG’s bonus payouts to the same company employees in their London operation that were at the center of the Credit Default Swap scheming that triggered the current global financial meltdown, but also like me you’re probably no economist nor expert in financial matters and are having a difficult time wrapping your head around what, exactly is going on, how we got here, and why our economy seems to be collapsing.
Sharona Coutts is a law graduate and an honors graduate from Columbia Journalism School’s investigative seminar and now writes for ProPublica, an independent, non-profit newsroom in Manhattan that produces investigative journalism and describes themslves as “producing journalism that shines a light on exploitation of the weak by the strong and on the failures of those with power to vindicate the trust placed in them”.
Sharona has put together a very good Q&A piece that helps in understanding what exactly is going on with AIG. She has also produced a very good related piece: Timeline: AIG and Their Bonuses that she quotes in the Q&A article reproduced here.
Monday marked six months to the day since AIG’s first bailout, but it wasn’t until news of executive bonuses over the weekend that public fury truly focused on the hemorrhaging insurer.
President Obama told Americans he was “choked up with anger” over bonus payments to executives at AIG’s Financial Products office whose bad bets pushed the company to the brink of collapse. The administration is worried about public anger turning against it, not just the company.
In some respects, the sudden anger is mystifying. After all, there’s nothing new about the bonuses except that a portion of them – $165 million – were actually paid on Friday. Contracts instigating the bonuses were made a year ago, and they’ve regularly been in the news in recent months.
And the amount involved is dwarfed by the tens of billions that flowed to banks and hedge funds.
AIG’s plan to pay bonuses have been public knowledge for more than a year. Why is this blowing up now?