AIG CEO Compares Criticism of Wall Street Bonuses to Jim Crow Lynchings

Key Speakers At Standard & Poor's 29th Annual Insurance Conference
Peter Foley/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Bank executives have spent the years since the financial collapse defending their industry's fat bonuses against criticism. AIG CEO Robert Benmosche just went way off the deep end in trying to defend those bonuses.

Benmosche recently sat down with the Wall Street Journal to chat about the efforts he's taken since to stabilize AIG, which was bailed out by the government. And today the paper posted some quotes that were cut from the original piece, including an inflammatory take on the bonus controversy.

The bonus controversy, he told the paper, "was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that–sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong."

That's right: Criticizing millionaire bank executives for getting excessive bonuses is "just as bad" as Jim Crow-era lynchings.

The comment is predictably getting Benmosche a heap of criticism. Matt Taibi, a frequent critic of the banking sector, blasted him on Twitter, and Slate's Matthew Yglesias observed, "The self-regard, egomania, and touchy defensiveness of the finance profession continues to amaze."

Benmosche wasn't totally off-base when he noted that "bonuses" tend to make up core compensation in the financial industry, a fact lost on much of the public. But any constructive dialogue he hoped to have on the issue is inevitably going to be overshadowed by his ridiculous and offensive analogy.

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Here are three things we've learned about big bank executives in the last couple years; absolutely no shame, no conscience, and no common sense.

September 25 2013 at 10:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
dave dolan

Reminiscent of a mentality that lead to the words "Let them eat cake." Keep it up fat boys. History reveals where it eventually ends up.

September 25 2013 at 9:25 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

So executive bonuses tend to make up core compensation on Wall Street. Interesting. I guess it depends on your definition of core compensation.

September 25 2013 at 8:44 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

It started with Bill Clinton repealing Glass-Steagel act (with the help of the Republican house) and letting people who didn't deserve to own houses get them with no money down. Then NAFTA sent good jobs out of the country, I personally saw 400-500 machine tool jobs go when my company unbolted the machines and sent them to Mexico. Give the Libertarian Party a chance, they couldn't do much worse. Take the on-line test at their web site you may already be one.

September 25 2013 at 8:30 AM Report abuse -3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to komonsensescott's comment

What? Glass Steagal was repealed with the passing of GLB (Gramm Leech Bliley) who were senators.....and glass steagal had zero to do with loaning to poor people.

September 25 2013 at 12:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I keep hoping for a BATMAN of Wallstreet to ride us of these thieves and elitists. The sad part is
they have convinced themselves they are actually worth the money they steal. Maybe someday
a hero will rise and take them down, but for now I won't hold my breath.(yes I'm aware of who
BATMAN was...billionaire Bruce Wayne). I don't have anything against 1% ers' just those who fail
and are still rewarded.

September 25 2013 at 8:17 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Well Mr AIG CEO, your friggin company cheated me out of $20,000 in disability benifits, after being injured in Iraq. All was approved, and payments started, then your former CEO executive took a $50 million bonus to get out and my payments were stopped. Thanks

September 25 2013 at 7:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

they have a drivers permit to crash and burn.none of us can get one because we are not too big to fail .these firms are modeled after bernie B. .banks launder money to the enemy which kills our service out what they do to take over the country and they get a bonus for it.

September 25 2013 at 6:35 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

There you have it. The CEO of the Nations largest insurer is as inept with analogies as he is with running the Company.

September 25 2013 at 5:51 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Let\'s see; These CEO\'s made bad decisions and carried out criminal actions that violated their fiduciary duties to their clients and investors, caused a financial collapse from which they were bailed out by the taxpayers while those same taxpayers lost their homes, their 401ks, their pensions, and their jobs. Furthermore, they benefit from free money to the tune of 85 billion per month courtesy of The Fed\'s QE. Damn, they should be hanged. In China they definately would have been shot.
Damn sthye should be hanged

September 25 2013 at 5:50 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply

I like the idea of Jim Crow lynchings, it should include everyone of these ceo crooks!

September 25 2013 at 12:16 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply