House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is the latest lawmaker to weigh in on the astounding news that AIG — which remains alive only because of $170 billion in taxpayer help — has plans to pay $450 million in executive bonuses.
Interviewed on NBC’s “Today” show this morning, Frank points out what every American outside of Wall Street knows intuitively: That bonuses, by definition, should reward merit, and for that reason shouldn’t be going to the same folks who ran the insurance giant directly into the ground.
It does appear to me we’re rewarding incompetence. Forget about the legal matter here for a second. These bonuses are going to people who screwed this thing up enormously, who made terrible decisions.
The argument from AIG, of course, is that a failure to pay these bonuses would result in an exodus of company’s best talent. Yet Frank implied that such an exodus would be a welcome change.
We can’t keep them from getting the bonuses, but we can keep some of them from continuing in their jobs. And I am very skeptical that these retention bonuses — these people got retention bonuses — well, if they were in high school, they wouldn’t have gotten retention, they would have gotten detention. And the time has probably come now to look at it and get rid of some of them.
As Mary wrote yesterday: Let them walk. Who, after all, is waiting in line to hire the “talent” that ruined one of the world’s largest corporations?
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