This letter titled "Dear AIG, I Quit", written by a senior executive at the AIG Financial Products Group at the center of the current national Bonus controversy, should be a must-read for anyone with an opinion either way on this issue. As he explains, Mr. Jake DeSantis did not have anything to do with the products that ultimately caused the downfall of AIG. Here are some salient excerpts:
"It is with deep regret that I submit my notice of resignation from A.I.G. Financial Products. I hope you take the time to read this entire letter. Before describing the details of my decision, I want to offer some context:
I am proud of everything I have done for the
commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved
in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that
have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current
employees of A.I.G.-F.P.
Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.
After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.
Mr. DeSantis goes on to add:
"I have the utmost respect for the civic duty that you are now performing at A.I.G. You are as blameless for these credit default swap losses as I am. You answered your country’s call and you are taking a tremendous beating for it.
It's one thing for an outsider like me to talk about how our politician and the media are encouraging what amounts to Financial McCarthyism around this issue, and quite another to read the opinion on all this from someone in the middle of all this, through no fault of their own.
What's particularly poignant is the way he goes on to describe his decision process regarding the compensation these he and his peers were due for hard work done in good faith:
As most of us have done nothing wrong, guilt is not a motivation to surrender our earnings. We have worked 12 long months under these contracts and now deserve to be paid as promised. None of us should be cheated of our payments any more than a plumber should be cheated after he has fixed the pipes but a careless electrician causes a fire that burns down the house.
Many of the employees have, in the past six months, turned down job offers from more stable employers, based on A.I.G.’s assurances that the contracts would be honored. They are now angry about having been misled by A.I.G.’s promises and are not inclined to return the money as a favor to you.
Mr. Cuomo has threatened to “name and shame,” and his counterpart in Connecticut, Richard Blumenthal, has made similar threats — even though attorneys general are supposed to stand for due process, to conduct trials in courts and not the press."
He goes on to describe how he's donating what''ll be left of his bonus to people affected by the global downturn.
In yesterday's post, I described what was going on in the context of getting AIG employees to "return" their bonuses as "Reputational Waterboarding".
It's clear from the comments by folks like Mr. DeSantis and others that are sure to follow, that we'll look back at this period in our history and feel the same national shame over how we're treating what's left of AIG and the financial industry at large (aka "Wall Street"), as we now do over our treatment of U.S. citizens of Japanese origin interned in camps during World War II, and the lives of thousands of Americans carelessly trampled during the McCarthy hysteria in the Fifties.
This one hasn't been going that long and the collateral damage is not as bad as it could be.
So it's not too late for us to all calm down a little bit, take a deep breath, and think some more about our misdirected rage.
Oh, and let's not rush to cancel those AIG policies, unless of course we get a better deal.
Update: Fred Wilson also had a post on this matter yesterday that's worth read, especially the comments from his readers on either side of this issue.