Monday, March 23, 2009

AIG, AIU, IOU, and Taking One for the Team

It appears we're supposed to look the other way while AIG, the insurance behemoth that's generating that giant sucking sound within the government, changes its name to AIU (n.b., a memo we received today would have used "it's" there...something we'll address when we have time to be outraged about grammatical idiocy once again).

P.T. Barnum may have suggested that nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people (many think it was Baltimore's H.L. Mencken who said it). Whomever said it was apparently wrong. AIG won't get a free pass simply by changing its name.

People remain honked, and while it has turned into a witch hunt, we don't blame them.

We're not holding a grudge about those AIG employees who had contracts to receive bonuses, although we question whether a contractual bonus is, in fact, a bonus for performance rather than a clever way of structuring compensation.

No, in fact, we agree with the United States Constitution's "contracts clause:"

No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
We do, though, applaud those AIG executives -- including at least one with whom we went to college -- who did the honorable thing and gave their bonuses back.
This is called taking one for the team.
Corporations are teams. They succeed or fail together. The notion that one didn't play a part in the credit blowup at AIG, so one is entitled to one's bonus is patently absurd. A baseball player can hit home runs, but if his team doesn't win the World Series, he is not a champion. Same for goes any sport.
The corporate collective is typically aligned through the granting of stock options. We would not have objected had the team at AIG, AIU, IOU, or whatever they're called agreed to forgo bonuses and, instead, earned a portion of the value they created for stockholders (including the unlucky suckers who pay taxes and now own a majority of the company). That would reward those who fixed the mess, irrespective of whether they caused it.
We applaud those proud few who volunteered to say no. Bravo. Now go get the rest of the team.
Back to the Constitution...might they re-think the part on titles of nobility?

1 comment:

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