17 March 2009

What AIG's CEO Really Needs To Say

What you really want to hear from Edward Liddy, the CEO at AIG, is this:

    "I am between a rock and a hard place with these bonuses right now. The guys who concocted these derivatives have me and the company over a barrel, because we really don't know how these things work either.

    I am forced to pay some of my people 6 million dollars to keep from losing 600 million dollars because a wet behind the ears rookie doesn't know how to bend or ignore marketplace trading rules the way my guys can without getting caught.

    We call these payments we made last week "bonuses", but they don't mean the same thing in our world that they do in the rest of corporate America. A "bonus" can be commissions, or a pat on the back for our staffers who work hard but don't actually sell stuff, or whatever the hell we want it to be for. It is the tool we use to own our employees lives lock, stock and barrel. I'd really, really hate to give that kind of power up.

    I have no idea how to renegotiate these contracts, the way they do in the sports world, or many other areas of business when the financial climate changes, because I never really had to even think about this before - and besides, it's never been my money that I was giving away.

    I would leave myself - not because I've got a better offer from somewhere else, but because I am tired of the people with the microphones and the cameras who always want me to say something, even though they've already got the written statement I've memorized word for word, because a part of their job is to try to put a face on this mess. Most of us in this business, even at the top, are in the same boat - we are all running out of ready cash, and our investments, believe it or not, are down further than yours. But I can still turn a lot of those zeros in my investment accounts back into millions if I can keep enough cash coming in to live off of until the market comes back. You could call it a "personal bailout."

    I really don't know how to tell you this, but I'm really not that concerned about a 150 or 160 million in bonuses right now, probably because we're working really hard, as I speak, to try to figure out how many more billions we're going to need from the government next month to keep the company operating. Well, that and the contingency proposal my assistant is cooking up that will hand me, ahem, I meant "that will permit me" to take a larger stake in a reorganized AIG without having to come up with a dime. The only reason this whole bonus brouhaha is even still on my personal radar is because of the bad publicity that erupted this weekend.

    But that's the kind of thing we CEO's have to deal with, when a sneaky president and his administration can give billions to you with one hand and then pull the rug out from under you with the other."

But our business and government leaders have become so allergic to the truth in this country that they would probably go into anaphylactic shock if they even thought about doing something like this.

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