The House of Representatives is debating a 90 percent tax on executive bonus payments made to companies receiving bailout funds. Anything they pass will still have to get through the Senate and past the President’s desk. They are “upset about something they already did,” according to Dan Lungren (R-CA). Congress ignored the opportunity to deal with this back when you and me and 100,000 other voters were telling them not to pass the bailout legislation.
Executive compensation schemes at American International Group (AIG) have been under investigation by the New York State Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo since last fall. He is ramping up the investigation now, given the news over the weekend of new bonus disbursements, to determine if the bonus contracts are unenforceable for fraud under New York law. AIG agreed with Cuomo last October not to use their own “deferred compensation pool” to pay bonuses – and then bargained with executives to make the payments anyway! AIG execs got contracts in early 2008 that guaranteed their bonuses – information that former Treasury Secretary Paulson and current Treasury Secretary Geithner (former President of the New York Federal Reserve Bank) had when they initiated the original bailout.
It’s pretty amazing 1) that taxpayers are bailing out a company that’s under criminal investigation; 2) that Treasury didn’t negotiate compensation schemes before they wrote the first check (like they do with auto workers?); and 3) that the bonuses are a bigger story than the fact that more than one-third of the bailout money was shipped overseas.