Remaining employees in AIG’s financial products group are worried that the angry America mob will tear them limb from limb.
They are also disgusted at how they’ve been stabbed in the back by their former colleagues (who have long since departed), the president, the country, and the media. They’re busting their butts to get taxpayers some money back, and they feel like they’re living inside a pinata.
Brady Dennis of the Washington Post provides some welcome perspective:
A solitary flat-screen television hangs on the back wall of the trading floor inside the headquarters of AIG Financial Products here. Wednesday afternoon, the most-talked-about employees in America huddled around it to find out just how despised they have become.
They watched quietly as members of Congress referred to them as greedy and incompetent. They heard more than one demand that their names be released to the seething American public. They heard the chairman of American International Group, Edward M. Liddy, tell lawmakers that people, in e-mails sent to AIG-FP, suggested that the firm’s leaders “should be executed with piano wire around their necks…
The handful of souls who championed the firm’s now-infamous credit-default swaps are, by nearly every account, long since departed. Those left behind to clean up the mess, the majority of whom never lost a dime for AIG, now feel they have been sold out by their Congress and their president.
“They’ve chosen to throw us under the bus,” said a Financial Products executive, one of several who spoke on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals. “They have vilified us.”
They say what is missing from this week’s hysteria is perspective. The very handsome retention payments they received over the past week were set in motion early last year when the firm’s former president, Joe Cassano, was on his way out the door. Financial Products was already running into trouble on its risky credit bets, and the year ahead looked grim. People were weighing offers from other firms, and AIG executives feared that too many departures could lead to disaster.
So AIG stepped in with an offer to employees of Financial Products. Work through all of 2008, and you’d get a lump payment in March 2009. Stick around through 2009, and you’ll get paid through 2010. Almost all other forms of compensation — bonuses, deferred payments and the like — have vanished.
“People are trying to do the right thing,” the same Financial Products executive said. “Guys have worked their [tails] off to try to get value for the taxpayer. This isn’t money that’s being advanced to us. People have performed the work and done it exactly as we asked them to do.”
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