AIG To Use Bailout Cash To Pay $165 Million In Bonuses. Yes, Seriously

So, those guys at AIG who underwrote trillions of dollars worth of credit default swaps backed by securitized mortgages? The ones the Times says were “at the very heart of A.I.G.’s worldwide conflagration?” They’re taking $165 million of our bailout money for bonuses. Because if we don’t pay them, these people—described by AIG’s government-appointed Chairman Ed Liddy as the “best and brightest talent”—will apparently leave to go ruin some other country’s financial system, and we can’t have that. Liddy acknowledged that the bonuses were “distasteful and difficult” before saying that he had “grave concern about the long-term consequences” of not paying up.

The bonuses will be paid to executives at American International Group’s Financial Products division, the unit that wrote trillions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bond backed by subprime mortgages.

Of all the financial institutions that have been propped up by taxpayer dollars, none has received more money than A.I.G. and none has infuriated lawmakers more with practices that policy makers have called reckless.

Mr. Liddy, whom Federal Reserve and Treasury officials recruited after A.I.G. faltered last September and received its first round of bailout money, said the bonuses and “retention pay” had been agreed to in early 2008 and were for the most part legally required.

The company told the Treasury that there were two categories of bonus payments, with the first to be given to senior executives. The administration official said Mr. Geithner had told A.I.G. to revise them to protect taxpayer dollars and tie future payments to performance.

The second group of bonuses cover some 2008 retention payments from contracts entered into before government involvement in A.I.G. that the company says it is legally obligated to fulfill. The official said Treasury concluded those contracts could not be broken.

Indeed, in his letter to Mr. Geithner, Mr. Liddy wrote that he had shown the details of the $450 million bonus pool to outside lawyers and been told that A.I.G. had no choice but to follow through with the payment schedule.

Six fair-minded chaps, including Mr. Liddy, have declined the bonuses. Others will get between $1,000 and $6.5 million. Seven execs in the financial services unit will get around $3 million.

Don’t worry, though, AIG, which has taken $180 billion of our dollars so far, will do its best to reduce its taxpayer-funded bonuses next year to only $70 million.

A.I.G. to Pay $100 Million in Bonuses After Huge Bailout [The New York Times]