AIG Vice President Defends Bonuses In Columbus Speech

Listen to the Story

While the head of insurance giant AIG was testifying before a House panel on Capitol Hill, a senior vice president of the company was in Columbus. AIG’s Nick Ashooh defended the bonuses – and his company – in a speech to the Columbus Metropolitan Club.

The government-appointed head of AIG, Edward Liddy, testified before a House Financial Services panel in Washington about the $220 million in bonus money paid to a group of company executives.

“Is the American public mad as a hornet about it? Yes. Would I have liked not to make those payments? Yes,” Liddy said.

Here in Columbus, AIG senior vice president Nick Ashooh echoed those comments. Ashooh says the retention bonuses, as he calls them, were drawn up more than a year ago in a completely different financial environment. He said the company is working to resolve the matter.

“Some people have volunteered to give their bonuses back and discussions are continuing along those lines,” Ashooh said.

Edward Liddy told members of Congress that certain employees would be asked to return their bonuses or a portion of them. But Nick Ashooh defended the payments.

“These are large retention payments by anybody’s standards but they’re in the context of what people in that line of business make. They were market rates. It’s a lot of money. Here we are today in a completely different environment. Our CEO Mr. Liddy is faced with ‘What do I do? These are contracts.’ Everybody agrees that contracts have to be honored,” Ashooh said.

Ashooh said the bonus payments involve only a very small number of the company’s 120,000 employees.

He said the $170 billion in bailout money that AIG has received has been vital in working to regain a more stable economy.

“The assistance provided AIG is very much about helping Main Street. The popular impression is that AIG has been handed a pile of cash, blew through it, and keeps coming back for more. But that’s not true,” Ashooh said.

Ashooh said he’s surviving on Advil and Diet Coke.