AIG Executive Quits in Style
Jake DeSantis, an executive in AIG’s much-derided financial products unit, has resigned in protest of what he believes shoddy and dishonorable treatment by his firm and his country’s political leadership. NYT has published an open letter to CEO Edward Liddy.
I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down.
The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation. I never received any pay resulting from the credit default swaps that are now losing so much money. I did, however, like many others here, lose a significant portion of my life savings in the form of deferred compensation invested in the capital of A.I.G.-F.P. because of those losses. In this way I have personally suffered from this controversial activity — directly as well as indirectly with the rest of the taxpayers.
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.
For his part, DeSantis says he’ll donate whatever is left of his bonus money after taxes to charity.
UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan makes a larger point.
The letter from Jake DeSantis in the NYT today is a very powerful reminder that bankers have human rights too. We are very used to understanding the idea that judging a person on the basis of unjust and untrue generalizations about the color of their skin is wrong. We call that racism. But when we make broad-brush accusations against all bankers, or even all bankers at a particular company, no such ethical restraint is required. Of course, this is not entirely nuts. The experience of bankers in human history is a little less oppressed, to put it mildly, than most African-Americans. But the core moral point is the same: we should always try to judge the individual, not the group.
The relatively privileged are often excused from this rule. And maybe this is fine most of the time, given their wealth and power. But it remains true that the individual obliterated by his fellows in this way is as human as anyone else. He or she is not worth less than someone in far less comfy circumstances.