Half the money

March 18, 2009 2:02:55 PM PDT
Half the money. That's how much of the $165 million in bonuses paid to executives of AIG that could soon make it back to... where?

The new CEO of AIG, the world's biggest and arguably most infamous insurance company, told Congress today that he's asked his executives who received more than $100,000 in bonuses to return half of it. Many of them have already done, he said; some have returned all of it.

The testimony comes as anger grows over the bonuses. The President - who learned about the bonuses on Thursday, but didn't speak out till Monday (should he have blasted it on Friday? Many believe he should have) - also expressing outrage today, again, over the bonuses. "They represent," said the President, "what I think all of us consider an inappropriate use of taxpayer funds. But what I think is also important and just as outrageous is the fact that we find ourselves in a situation where we're having to clean up after AIG's mess."

The AIG scandal - and it is in many ways just that - is symbolic of the bigger problem facing government as it tries to deal with the recession. Did Congress and the White House - Bush's and Obama's - act too fast doling out money to the same executives that got their companies into dire financial trouble? Did the government - and we, the taxpayers - start pumping funds into these ill-run companies without the proper guarantees and transparencies?

We took an online poll, asking how you felt about the AIG bonuses. Some of your responses are below.

And late this afternoon, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo blasted CEO Edward Liddy's give-back-half proposal.

"AIG's proposal to ask their bonus recipients to voluntarily give back half is simply too little too late. Mr. Liddy's proposal to take half back from those who got more than $100,000 will cover some 298 out of 418 bonus recipients. Rather than take half-measures, AIG should immediately turn over the list, which we have subpoenaed, of who got what and when.

"The American people have a right to know what is happening with massive amounts of their money. Mr. Liddy needs to understand this. If AIG is really serious about getting these bonuses back, they should comply with the subpoena we have issued. Mr. Liddy said at the hearing today, in response to Congressman Gary Ackerman's question, that AIG will comply with our subpoena, but we have still received nothing from them. If AIG has nothing to hide and is not embarrassed about these payments, they should turn over the list now. The era of shrouding huge bonuses in secrecy must end. We prefer not to go to court on this matter, but AIG is leaving us little choice. I hope the leadership at the company comes to its senses now."

We'll have the latest on the bonuses and the economy, tonight at 11.

Also at 11, we are following closely the health of actress Natasha Richardson. There are conflicting reports about her condition. We're at Lenox Hill Hospital, where her family - husband Liam Neeson, mother Vanessa Redgrave - are gathering, and keeping vigil.

And Tim Fleischer tonight has a fascinating story -- perfect for these recessionary times -- about ways to save a lot of money on cell phone usage. Turns out, pre-paid, or pay-as-you-go phone plans are quite economical, and in many cases, can save you a lot of money.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast (will this spring weather last?) and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Sade Baderinwa (in for Liz Cho) and me, tonight at 11.


And here are some of the responses to our AIG online poll. If you want to weigh in, CLICK HERE.

"There is NO WAY that AIG should keep our money. That money was meant to keep AIG from falling under, Not for bonuses."

Dominic Caro
Union City, NJ

"What was said on the news about AIG was correct..."Arrogance, Incompetence and Greed" best describes this company. NO...they should not be able to keep those bonus' under the circumstances. The fact that they received the bonus' at all is both tragic and insulting to the taxpayers of this country."

Lynn Brophy
Port Washington, NY

"Whether exec or regular employee, bonus potential should always have a performance component. For execs, part of that often depends on both individual contribution and company results. If the performance isn't fully successful, bonuses should be less. Contract or no, the morally-right decision is only partial payment (if that); they should accept that or indeed, the "G" in AIG stands for GREED and they should be ashamed."

Karen Krutzsch
Basking Ridge, NJ

"Are they kidding me? There are so many of us struggling just to survive and they are walking away with Million Dollar Bonus ?? It Disgusting !!!"

Patricia Barbarino
Shirley, NY

"These people are seriously out of their minds. Those people earned absolutely NOTHING.They should all be ashamed of themselves.If they were doing such a great job, why did they need the bailout money in the first place. Once they accepted the money, all contracts should have been null and void. I would have made AIG fire everyone at the top levels before the money was even given to them. Really, what "talent" are they talking about if these people have run the company into the ground.

Jersey City, NJ

"I feel its called a bonus for a reason. If you have done or exceeded your expectations on your work, then you have earned your right to get the bonus. But the your company is asking for help because they are going under then that shows that the workers did not exceed their work expectations and have not earned that bonus and are not entitled to any extra pay."

Bronx, New York

"As far as I know, a bonus is given when you do good work and earn money for the company. These people did not do any of these things as a matter of fact they did quite the opposite."

Carol H. Horry
Corona, NY

"I can understand giving bonuses for jobs well done. However, the employees getting the bonuses at AIG were responsible for the mess that the company is in. If they had a conscience, they would decline the bonus and work harder to put the company back on the road to solvency. Even better, donate the money they received to help people in danger of losing their homes and to homeless shelters. Shame on AIG for their outrageous behavior!!!

Carol Ilott
Oakdale, New York

"No they shouldn't, who do they think they are? Here I am working hard trying to keep things afloat, the banks don't want to extend no more credit even with a great credit score. they need to be punished."

Vicki Morris
New York

"Not everyone on 'The List' is getting million dollar bonuses. There are lower level employees who received a fair bonus and are extremely dependant on what they received. (Don't take it away from the little people.)"

Maureen Callen
Fishkill, NY

"I feel AIG should get the bonuses back from the people they gave them to. It sounds silly, but it is not, it seems they can't handle extra money to help them, instead they spend it foolishly, first it was the junket to Las Vegas and now this. THEY DO NOT DESERVE ANY MORE HELP FROM THE GOVERNMENT."

Barbara Caroppolo
Union Beach, New Jersey

"I can't understand how the executives receiving bonuses in the wake of such a financial mess can take the money with a clean conscience. Have they been living in a cave? Do they not realize the magnitude of what they have done or is it they don't care what they have done to the rest of us with their arrogance. I wouldn't want to be a family member of one of the execs who got the bonus. I'd be afraid for my life."

Dawn Tutunjian