Monday, March 16, 2009

Can Congress Get Our Money Back From AIG?

The news over the weekend about AIG and their hundreds of millions in bonuses have pissed a lot people off, including those in Congress. People like Barney Frank want the taxpayer dollars given back and it appears that Speaker Pelosi wants to get involved too.

From The Gavel:

While American workers see their wages decline and face record job losses, it is unconscionable that AIG, which is receiving more than $170 billion in government assistance, would permit such extravagant executive compensation practices without any accountability to the taxpayer.

I have asked Chairman Barney Frank of the House Financial Services Committee to examine options that are legally available to recover taxpayer funds of companies that abuse the privilege of taxpayer assistance.

I call upon the executives at AIG to right the wrong they have done to American taxpayers, who are footing the bill for the most expensive government rescue in history. They should renounce the bonuses and refuse the excessive retention pay they previously agreed to.

Congress, working with the Obama Administration, has put in place tough executive compensation and responsibility measures to ensure that taxpayers are protected and we will continue to take all action necessary to ensure transparency and accountability.

That sounds great, but examining what to do and actually doing it are two totally separate things. Congress has issued many strongly worded statements before with little punch behind them. For too long the Legislature has been great at handing out large sums of money (whether as tax cuts for the rich or blocks of money known as "bailouts" and "rescue packages"). When it comes to watching what happens with that money and making sure it is effective is another matter. AIG isn't going to part with our billions easily, so Congress must act forcefully...and not just on the Speaker's letterhead.