Five top senior executives at AIG reportedly threatened to quit last week after the company's general counsel, Anastasia Kelly, advised them that not only was compensation czar Kenneth Feinberg probably going to slash their 2009 bonuses by 91 percent and limit their salaries to $500,000, he was going after their retirement, too: Starting next year, the "golden parachutes" built into their contracts would be gone. If they ever wanted to see that money, she told them, they would have to quit now or forever hold their peace. "You're worth more dead than alive," we imagine her saying, while fixing them with a steely stare à la Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life.
Of course, she didn't actually say that, according to the Journal:
A spokesman for Ms. Kelly says she didn't "instigate or encourage" the other four, but "only advised the other executives of what they needed to do to protect their rights" under AIG's executive-severance plan, and helped them arrange for outside counsel.
The other four executives are Rodney Martin, who heads one of AIG's international life-insurance businesses that is slated for an initial public offering or sale; William Dooley, who has been overseeing the financial-services division; Nicholas Walsh, vice chairman and head of AIG's international property-and-casualty-insurance businesses; and John Doyle, who heads the U.S. property-casualty business.
At least two of the executives reportedly came to their senses over the weekend. It's unclear what changed their minds: a sense of patriotic duty or fear of the shitstorm of public outrage a group of extraordinarily paid people would have undoubtedly caused by storming out en masse. But we can't say we entirely blame them for considering bailing out on the biggest bailout recipient, just for a minute. It certainly isn't much of a picnic working there these days, with the TARP hanging over their heads and constant will-they-survive editorials. Faced with the choice of jumping out into a soft pile of money or hanging out with no, well, life insurance, anyone might be tempted to parachute out before that rickety plane crashes.