Source Close to AIG: ‘Everyone Gets That This Doesn’t Look Good’

Mar 16, 2009 2:23pm

ABC News’ Matt Jaffe reports: "AIG gets it," a source close to the company told ABC News today when asked about the widespread outrage about the $165 million in payments for executives as part of a retention program for members of the company’s Financial Products unit. CEO Edward Liddy "doesn’t blame people for being angry," the source said. "It’s not like he woke up in October and said, ‘Let’s pay millions to these people!’" "Everyone gets that this doesn’t look good," the source added. The source explained why AIG believed they needed to put these retention programs in place, citing that when Joe Cassano, chief of the Financial Products unit, left in early 2008, the company was worried that other employees would follow. At the time, around $800 million in deferred compensation had been lost, so AIG’s employees had not only seen their boss leave, but they’d also lost millions. Ultimately, the retention program worked — employees stayed with the company. But that doesn’t mean the company is happy about the situation right now. "We looked at this extensively," the source said, emphasizing AIG’s attempts to see if they were obligated to make these payments. Not only are people outside AIG upset, but also within the company too, because the same people who "tarnished" the whole company are now receiving millions, the source said. The person to blame? Not Liddy, but rather former CEO Hank Greenberg. "Hank Greenberg should be taken to task for creating FP," the source said. "To put the whole company and the whole economy at risk, that’s not a good business decision. That’s why we’re getting rid of the unit." When Liddy testifies before a House subcommittee on Wednesday morning, expect him to emphasize his unhappiness with the retention program for AIGFP, but also to note the legal, monetary, and business consequences for the company if the program were to be eliminated at this point.

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