Emboldened by the basic fact that--other than a few billion dollars in fines and zero jail time--Wall Street's "Masters Of The Universe" have gotten away with nothing short of murder and egregious financial terrorism since the market crash in 2008, it's not surprising that we're constantly reminded of their sociopathic greed; and, as of today, public fits of racist/racially insensitive hubris.
So, when you're
an insensitive bastard who's prone to public fits of narcissism someone who's, as I've noted in a previous post here, prone to thinking and speaking out of their ass on a regular basis, such as American International Group (AIG's) CEO Robert Benmosche, it's great to see a guy like Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings publicly pulverize the idiot; which is just what he did, a few hours ago.
(Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi jumps into this story, in my update, further down the page.)
(h/t Zero Hedge)
Frankly, almost as bad as Benmosche's comment(s), itself, was the manner in which the WSJ blog glossed over the entire matter (starting with the headline)...
AIG’s Benmosche and Miller on Villains, Turnarounds and Those Bonuses(Bold type is diarist's emphasis.)
By Leslie Scism
Wall Street Journal Blog
September 24, 2013 2:32PM
...Mr. Benmosche on the government’s campaign against partial “bonuses” to be paid to hundreds of employees in the AIG financial-products unit as they unwound massive, ill-fated bets on mortgage bonds. He said “less than 10” employees were behind the bad trades.
“That was ignorance … of the public at large, the government and other constituencies. I’ll tell you why. [Critics referred] to bonuses as above and beyond [basic compensation]. In financial markets that’s not the case. … It is core compensation.
“Now you have these bright young people [in the financial-products unit] who had nothing to do with [the bad bets that hurt the company.] … They understand the derivatives very well; they understand the complexity. … They’re all scared. They [had made] good livings. They probably lived beyond their means. …They aren’t going to stay there for nothing.
The uproar over bonuses “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.
“We wouldn’t be here today had they not stayed and accepted … dramatically reduced pay. … They really contributed an enormous amount [to AIG’s survival] and proved to the world they are good people. It is a shame we put them through that...”
And, here's Congressman Cummings' response, from just a few hours ago...
Cummings Calls for Resignation of AIG CEO: AIG Head Equates Criticism of Corporate Bonuses with Lynching in Deep South
Washington, DC (Sept. 24, 2013)—Today, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, issued the following statement in response to a statement by Robert Benmosche, the CEO of American International Group (AIG), asserting that criticism of AIG’s excessive bonuses during the nation’s financial crisis in 2008 “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.”
Cummings stated:“As the leading critic of AIG’s lavish spending before and after its taxpayer funded bailout—and as the son of sharecroppers who actually experienced lynchings in their communities—I find it unbelievably appalling that Mr. Benmosche equates the violent repression of the African American people with congressional efforts to prevent the waste of taxpayer dollars. If these statements are true, I believe he has demonstrated a fundamental inability to lead this modern global company in a responsible manner—a company that exists today only because it was rescued by the American taxpayers—and that he should resign his position as CEO immediately.”Cummings, along with Rep. Henry Waxman, then-Chairman of the Oversight Committee, led an investigation in 2008 into the financial excesses that led to the government bailout of AIG. Cummings continued his work in subsequent years with then-Chairman Edolphus Towns, investigating AIG’s excessive bonuses paid for by taxpayers.
Earlier this year, AIG considered joining a $25 billion shareholder lawsuit against the government agencies that rescued the company during the financial crisis.
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UPDATE (9/25/13, 9:30AM EDT):
(h/t to Kossack grimjc, in the comments)
Matt Taibbi joins in (sorry that I missed this when I first published this post)...
AIG CEO Robert Benmosche Compares Bonus Criticism to Lynch MobsEND OF 9/25/13, 9:30AM (EDT) UPDATE.
By Matt Taibbi
Rolling Stone Blog
September 24, 3:50 PM ET
AIG has a lengthy history of producing some of the biggest tools on Wall Street. Former CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg was considered one of the world's preeminent unapologetic narcissists even before he sued the government for providing an insufficiently generous bailout. Joe Cassano, former chief of AIG's financial products division, was another. First, he arrogantly blew off the accountants who warned him his portfolio of hundreds of billions in uncollateralized bets might destroy the world. Then, after it all went kablooey, he tiptoed back to D.C. (after first being assured of not being prosecuted, mind you) from his lavish four-story townhouse in London just long enough to tell the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission that he had absolutely nothing to be sorry about and they could bite him and his hundreds of millions in earnings if they disagreed.
Now a third AIG executive enters the pantheon of tone-deaf AIG bigwigs: CEO Robert Benmosche, who just told the Wall Street Journal that the post-crash public outcry over the use of bailout money to pay bonuses to executives in Cassano's Financial Products unit was comparable to – get this – lynchings in the deep south. From reporter Leslie Scism's interview:The uproar over bonuses "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."For sheer "Let them eat cake"-ness, this ranks right up there with Lloyd Blankfein's "I'm doing God's work" riff and Berkshire Hathaway billionaire Charlie Munger's line about how it was proper to bail out Wall Street, but people in foreclosure should "suck it in and cope." A few notes:
First of all, any white guy anywhere, rich or poor, who steps out in public wearing the mantle of 400 years of black suffering instantly shoots to the very top of the world asshole pyramid. Most white people grasp this instinctively. If they don't already teach it in kindergarten to make sure the rest get it, they ought to.
But when you're a white guy who just presided over a year of declining across-the-board sales but got a 24% pay raise anyway, to $13 million a year, largely because your company is invested in a market that's overheating due to massive Fed intervention, and you're so grateful for your cosmic good fortune that you immediately go out and publicly nail yourself to the cross of black victimhood – and not while stone drunk and with buddies at a bar, mind you, but sober and sitting in front of a Wall Street Journal reporter – that's like a whole new category of asshole...
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Here's Zero Hedge (Taibbi, whom I excerpted, above, has noted that ZH--when it comes to Wall Street dirt--is one of his favorite blogs)...
And, Elizabeth Warren...
"I’m doing God’s work."
- Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein in a November 2009 interview
"It’s war. It’s like when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939."
- Steve Schwarzman, Chairman and co-founder of Blackstone, on potential tax changes in 2010
""The uproar over bonuses 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. And I think it was just as bad and
just as wrong."
- AIG CEO Robert Benmosche in a Wall Street Journal Interview this past weekend
As if you needed any more evidence of how disconnected, entitled, irrational and sociopathic the heads of financial firms in America are these days, along comes AIG’s CEO Robert Benmosche to dispel any lingering doubts. In a highly disturbing interview with the Wall Street Journal, Mr. Benmosche compares the murder of black people in the deep south based on racial prejudice and hate to the vast majority of Americans expressing disgust with the fact that Wall Street decided to suspend capitalism when it was in their best interests in order to give themselves trillions of dollars.
He actually compares an environment where the rule of law was often completely suspended to allow the murder of a disenfranchised racial group, to widespread public anger about the suspension of the rule of law to benefit the wealthiest, most connected people in the nation.
The craziest part of his statement is that if anything, the bailout of financial oligarchs to the severe detriment of the rule of law, free markets and the best interests of the vast majority of the American public is actually what is most similar to lynchings in the south. In both cases, the rule of law was suspended to benefit the powerful over the weak. This man is a dangerous sociopath, and he is precisely the type of person you get in charge when you bail out institutions that should have died...
Elizabeth Warren On AIG Tax Break: It's An Extra Bailout Worth BillionsThe article continues on to quote former vice chairman of the congressional oversight panel Damon Silvers, who "...said the tax break unfairly benefits private AIG stockholders, including executives who were paid in stock options, at the expense of taxpayers..."
By DANIEL WAGNER 03/12/12 04:19 PM ET AP (via Huffington Post)
WASHINGTON -- Former members of a congressional panel that oversaw bailouts during the financial crisis blasted the Treasury Department on Monday for quietly granting a tax break worth billions to insurance giant American International Group.
The tax break amounts to a "stealth bailout" on top of the $182 billion that AIG received from the government, and it unfairly helps AIG, its shareholders and executives, former oversight panel chair Elizabeth Warren and others said.
Warren... ...told reporters that tax breaks accounted for 90 percent of AIG profits last quarter.
"We think it's time for Congress to end the special tax break," she said.
Companies sometimes defer losses and use them to reduce the tax burden in future years. Companies that change ownership usually face strict limits on how much of a loss they can defer. But the Treasury Department granted AIG an exemption, handing the company $17.7 billion in profit, the former panel members said...
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