AIG Executive Tells ABC News He'll Return Bonus Money

Those who received large bonuses are largely in hiding-- one speaks to ABC News.

March 20, 2009 — -- One of the AIG executives who received a controversial bonus confirmed for today his "intentions to give back" the money.

Jon Liebergall was the co-head of North American marketing for AIG's financial products unit, which has been blamed for bringing the company to its knees and threatening the country's entire economy.

Liebergall is one of several AIG execs who have agreed to give up the fat bonuses they received in recent days which triggered a public outcry and AIG's CEO Edward Liddy urged them to "do the right thing" and give back at least half the money.

In a curt phone call, Liebergall told, "My intentions to give back the ERP have already been reported," using the initials of the company's employe retention program. He refused to discuss the issue further.

Liebergall, 43, who was reached at his Fairfield County, Conn., home, is one of three AIG financial products unit executives widely reported to be giving back their retention bonuses.

The others are James Haas, 47, who is co-head with Liebergall, and Douglas Poling. The Wall Street Journal reported that Poling, 48, received the largest payment at $6.4 million. He is an executive vice president responsible for energy and infrastructure investments.

But other AIG executives who received $165 million in bonuses remained tight-lipped today, nearly a week after news of the payments broke and a day after the House of Representatives passed a measure to heavily tax the payouts.

No one answered calls to their homes.

In a move to quell the growing outrage over the massive bonuses given to employees of companies such as AIG, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Thursday to heavily tax the money doled out by large companies that took federal bailout money.

The bill approved by the House Thursday still needs to pass the Senate, which has submitted a very different measure. Critics also question whether the House bill would survive a court challenge.

As they debated the bill, House Democrats said enough is enough.

"The American people have said no, and they have said, 'Hell no, give us our money back,'" said Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D.

New York Democrat Charles Rangel said the companies need to "stop the thieving at taxpayers' expense."

"The only way to get their money back is to tax it back," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y.

Approved 328 to 93, the bill would slap a 90 percent tax on the bonuses of any employee making more than $250,000 at any company that received federal bailout money.

However, the angriest voices today came from Republicans. They accused Democrats of making the bonuses possible.

"Listen, this bill is nothing more then an attempt for everyone to cover their butt up here on Capitol Hill," said House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio. "It's full of loopholes."

Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, echoed the sentiment, telling his colleagues, "Don't come up with this political cover-your-backside language, trying to excuse all the people who are responsible for this in the first place."

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., called the matter a "scandal that's brewing in Washington," and said, "We need to have answers."

At issue is a tiny provision in last month's stimulus bill that exempted contracts signed last year from limits on executive compensation. Call it the AIG loophole.

The loophole was part of measure written by Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., but he told ABC News that it was the Treasury Department that pushed for it during closed-door negotiations with House and Senate leaders.

"I was not in the room," he said.

Geithner, Pelosi on Loophole

But House and Senate leaders were.

House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told ABC News that the language in the measure "never came to the House side. ... It's a matter of absolute fact and record."

Asked if she opposed the final bill, Pelosi said, "The language that related to this is in the Senate bill."

Speaking on the House floor earlier this week in support of the bonus tax, Pelosi said, "It just simply isn't right. When there is a reward, a spelled-out-in-advance reward for those who will take undue risk -- when they fail, they get a bonus, the taxpayer gets the bill. This must end."

In an interview conducted by CNN yesterday Geithner acknowledged that the Treasury Department "expressed concern" about the provision as the government wanted to "make sure it was strong enough to survive legal challenge.