Posted on 18 May 2009
Steve Kroft of CBS' 60 Minutes interviewed AIG CEO Edward Liddy Sunday night, discussing with the head of the embattled insurer various issues, including its commitment to repay taxpayers. The government has given or promised the insurance and financial services conglomerate $180 billion in loans, investments, financial injections and guarantees. In return the U.S. taxpayers have been given a 79 percent equity stake in the company.
When asked by Kroft whether AIG, American International Group Inc., will ever pay back taxpayers, Mr. Liddy responded:
"I think we have almost a unique place, and not a very desirable place, in terms of the anger and frustration that Americans feel about bailouts. You know, individuals aren't being bailed out. Why should a company be bailed out? So I understand it. We're just trying to do the best we can to pay back the taxpayer."
For the past eight months, Liddy's job has been to prevent AIG from collapsing: trying to extricate the company from its disastrous trades, and selling off the crown jewels of what was once one of the world's great businesses, all to satisfy its massive debt to Uncle Sam.
Asked why he accepted the job of turning AIG around and for only a dollar a year, Liddy told Kroft, "First, I think, like much of your audience, if somebody calls and says, 'Could you please help your country?' people say, 'Yes.' With respect to a dollar a year, I knew I'd have to make some tough decisions. I didn't want in any way, shape, or form people to question my integrity, my honesty as to why I was doing it."
Liddy also said during the interview that he believes the public anger directed against the company and its employees is misguided and counterproductive, making it more difficult to hold onto the people it needs to keep the company going, and undermining the value of its most successful and profitable assets which he is trying to sell.
The company last week sold its Tokyo office building for $1.2 billon. Additionally, the iconic Manhattan headquarters is up for sale.
"So you are, in effect, the liquidator?" Kroft asked.
"Well, I don't think it will be called AIG, but there will be pieces of this institution left. But that's the only choice we have. That's the only way we can pay back the government," Liddy said.
Asked if all of the government money will be paid back, Liddy said, "That's what we're committed to doing."