Populist anger at AIG: Has it gone too far?

March 19, 2009 at 10:05 pm 2 comments

Just like many Americans, I was enraged when news broke that AIG planned to pay $165 million in bonuses to its executives, some of whom aren’t even with the company anymore. But I read two items in the news today that makes me concerned about whether America’s populist anger toward the insurance giant has, in fact, become too hostile.

The Washington Post published an article this morning describing the palpable fear of employees at the headquarters of AIG Financial Products in Connecticut. And not just over the fear of their company’s future, but fear of their personal safety. Protesters have been staking out in front of AIG employees’ homes. The company has received death threats and calls to blow up the headquarters. An employee had in London had to relocate because a tabloid had printed his address.

Then, this afternoon, Gawker posted a memo from AIG to its employees, detailing security measures all employees should undertake to keep themselves safe.

In many respects, I find these reports even more outrageous than the news about the bonuses. As the Post mentions, most of the employees that instigated the behavior that led to the company’s downfall – like credit derivatives written on mortgage-backed securities – are long gone. Now, the employees who didn’t participate in this behavior are left to clean up the mess. And they’re receiving memos telling them not to wear AIG apparel in public, to walk in groups, and to be escorted whenever inside an AIG facility.

Death threats, stake-outs and intimidation on the part of the American public are just as infuriating as executive bonuses.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not defending AIG. I agree that their behavior before and after this economic crisis has been despicable. But I don’t think any of these employees deserve to receive threats, or be forced to move away from their homes out of fear of public retaliation.

Mob mentality is a dangerous thing. Just as dangerous as wasteful spending and corporate irresponsibility.

And as good as public outrage might feel right now, it won’t do any good unless it leads to strategic, rational action to prevent this economic crisis from worsening.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. lizzygram  |  March 19, 2009 at 10:21 pm

    I totally agree with you on this. And I don’t agree with any american in taking part in such a way.
    But, I do agree with anyone’s anger towards AIG…But our own Government is just as bad.. I am asking everyone to boycott AIG and any affiliate of their company. This will hurt the company and bring it down. No need for death threats or any violence.
    Government, well just vote all the old one out of office and put in a new one with new ideas….It is my opinion…they all need to go..

    Reply
  • 2. dylan555  |  March 19, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    How about defending contracts too? I don’t like these bonuses, but I’m more afraid of contractual law being ripped up and thrown out.

    Reply

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