Bob Cropf

Bailing out bankers rather than banks

In economics on March 18, 2009 at 10:41 AM

David Leonhardt in today’s NY Times, writes a good article pointing out the fallacies in A.I.G’s claims that the bonuses the company paid out to its employees for “retention purposes.” He systematically discredits this argument on several grounds:
1) They’re totally unnecessary. He points out that almost no executive has left one company for a similar position at another company.
2) For jobs below that of CEO, it is not necessarily a bad thing for turnover to happen. After all, isn’t the case that the Financial Product division is the one most responsible for getting the company into its current mess?
Leonhardt also dismisses A.I.G chief, Edward Liddy’s claim that the bonuses are needed to keep top talent in the firm by pointing out that a) it hasn’t worked–52 employees receiving bonuses still left and b) none of the employees are truly
indispensable; all could without a great deal of trouble be replaced. The whole situation points to the need for increased government oversight of the industry, which should have been in place years before, so that the situation we now find ourselves in would probably never have happened. This is what occurs when you leave the asylum to be run by its inmates. How could anyone expect things to turn out differently?

As a side note, there is a very interesting video of a lecture by Alan Blinder at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, which was given in November 2008 and is well-worth watching. The lecture is entitled “The Origins of the Financial Mess.”

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