Friday, December 5, 2008

Violating the spirit

When I read this article AIG Gives "Retention' Pay After Scrapping Bonuses, I was incensed, because the "Retention" pay given to AIG executives is yet another fudging of the truth. The article says, “’The expectation from the public and Congress was that they weren’t getting bonuses, not that they’d be pushed off by several months,’ said David Schmidt, a consultant at executive pay firm James F. Reda & Associates. That clearly violates the spirit of AIG saying they’ll forgo their bonuses.” It seems to be the case that only those most entrenched in power, in the high and monied places of our society/economy, are in positions where they can engage in this kind of fudging. To me, it’s yet another example of the lying that seems endemic in the executive suites of the largest corporations in this country. In fact, I suspect that there is a certain pride that beats in the hearts of these captains of industry as they figure out yet another clever way in which to circumnavigate public promises so that nothing has to be conceded from their own pocketbooks.

In and of themselves, I don’t have any objection to annual bonuses or performance bonuses. It is a fact that some workers and executives do add exceptional value in their unique contributions to their companies such that stockholders and employees can share in the added value. I believe in rewards for exalted performance. But the slight-of-hand that panders to the public with promises of self-restraint while anteing up the big bucks from another line in the budget or from a different budget altogether or from a different accounting period is just plain wrong. And I am deeply skeptical that the thinkers, lawyers and accountants on the staffs of the members of Congress didn’t apply their vaunted intellects to anticipate this kind of side-stepping when they negotiated the agreements for bonus and pay concessions of the corporations lined up with their hands out for a government bailout. Shame on them all!

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