To Bonus or Not to Bonus? That’s Really a Question?

Mar 17, 2009 11:08am

Last night Steven Colbert lifted the pitchfork (literally) and shouted to the masses (his viewers) "let’s go get AIG!".  Sarcastic?  Of course.  But it seems he’s tapping into what so many Americans are feeling today as the news of the $165 million in bonuses to AIG sinks in. 

Despite the frustration some are striking a different tone.  Andrew Ross Sorkin makes an interesting case this morning in the New York Times:  "…despite how offensive and painful it might be, let’s honor the contracts," he writes. 

His thinking?  We, the taxpayer, need the employees getting the bonuses to stay on the job because they are the only ones who know how to get AIG out of this mess.  Reminder:  The taxpayer now owns 80 percent of the company.

Sorkin:  "A.I.G. built this bomb, and it may be the only outfit that really knows how to defuse it.  A.I.G. employees concocted complex derivatives that then wormed their way through the global financial system. If they leave — the buzz on Wall Street is that some have, and more are ready to — they might simply turn around and trade against A.I.G.’s book. Why not? They know how bad it is. They built it.  So as unpalatable as it seems, taxpayers need to keep some of these brainiacs in their seats, if only to prevent them from turning against the company. In the end, we may actually be better off if they can figure out how to unwind these tricky investments."

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