In an interview with Cedar Rapids, Iowa, radio station WMT-AM today, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, said executives of AIG should consider following what he described of the Japanese model of shamed corporate executives: apology or suicide.
"I don’t know whether the ($165 million in bonuses) is an issue as much as just the chutzpah of the people running AIG," Grassley said. "That they could thumb their nose at the taxpayers, it’s more that.
"The attitude of these corporate executives and bank executives, and most of them are in New York, that somehow they’re not responsible for their company going into the tank," he said.
"I suggest, you know, obviously maybe they ought to be removed, but I would suggest that the first thing that would make me feel a little bit better towards them [is] if they would 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."
Grassley added, "In the case of the Japanese, they usually commit suicide before they make any apology."
In a Tuesday morning conference call, Grassley told reporters, according to the Associated Press, that "what I’m expressing here obviously is not that I want people to commit suicide. That’s not my notion. But I do feel very strongly that we have not had statements of apology, statements of remorse, statements of contrition on the part of CEOs of manufacturing companies or banks or financial services or insurance companies that are asking for bailouts."
Last October, Grassley invoked the Japanese model a little less harshly.
"I’ve suggested it wouldn’t be a bad thing that the leadership of these institutions would take a Japanese-style approach to corporate governance," he said then. "And I’m not talking about going out and committing suicide as some Japanese do in these circumstances, but I am talking about scenes I’ve seen on television where in belly-up corporations the CEOs go before the board of directors, before the public, before the stockholders and bow deeply and apologize for their mismanagement. Something like that happening among Wall Street executives would go a long way toward satisfying my constituents and many Americans that help might be needed and would more gracefully be given by the taxpayers of this county."
And responding to the news that Wall Street bankers gave themselves $18.4 billion worth of bonuses in 2008, Grassley told the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd at the end of January that the executives "ought to give ‘em back or we should go get ‘em. If this were Japan and a corporate executive did what is being done on Wall Street, they’d either go out and commit suicide or go before the board of directors and the country and take a very deep bow and apologize.”
* This post has been updated.