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WSJ: AIG Memo Hints Privacy Tied to Bonus Return

Source: WSJ

Posted on 25 Mar 2009

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A memo sent by an American International Group Inc. (AIG) executive appears to advise employees in the company's Financial Products division that their willingness to give back controversial bonuses would spare them from being publicly identified by authorities.

Language in the internal memo, which was dated Friday and emerged Tuesday, raised the issue of how much pressure if any was brought to bear on employees in the troubled unit to return $165 million in bonuses that triggered a political firestorm.

"To the extent that we meet certain participation targets, it is not expected that the names would be released, at all," said the memo.

The statement was based on the belief inside AIG that if enough employees responded to Chief Executive Edward Liddy's request to return the bonuses, the furor would die down, according to a person familiar with the matter.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said last week he had received a list of employees that received retention bonuses at the AIG unit but wouldn't make the names public immediately. The attorney general's office didn't set targets for rescinded bonuses as a condition for keeping the names secret, a person familiar with the matter said Tuesday. The memo was earlier reported by the Washington Post.

Late Monday, Mr. Cuomo said 15 of the top 20 AIG bonus recipients had agreed to give back their payments, amounting to more than $30 million in cash. The state attorney general said he's aiming to recoup the 47% of the total bonus pool received by American employees. He also said he sees no public interest in publicly releasing the names of people who return their bonuses.

Please be aware that we have received assurances from Attorney General Cuomo that no names will be released by his office before he completes a security review which is expected to take at least a week," reads the memo dated March 20.