October 2008 Ethics Dunces

American International Group, Inc

Last month, days after the U.S. government stepped in to save AIG with a $85 billion taxpayer-funded loan, the company spent $440,000 tab for a week-long retreat at a luxurious California resort for top-performing insurance agents. After the predictable uproar on the internet and the editorial pages, the company “explained” that the trip had been planned for a long time, and that only a few of the beneficiaries had been AIG employees.

Ah. Well then, never mind. After all, nobody on the verge of insolvency ever actually changes their plans. Oops! Dad just got fired! Too bad we already planned that Hawaii trip! Aloha! Oh-oh! Just discovered that Grandpa needs expensive surgery and Junior lost his scholarship! But that’s no reason to put off the purchase of that sports car!

As stunning and clueless as the broke, incompetent and struggling insurance giant’s conduct was, this was even more amazing: just a few weeks later, AIG did it again.

It was revealed that top executives from AIG spent thousands of dollars during an English hunting trip, even as the insurer asked for an additional $37.8 billion loan from the Federal Reserve. "This was an annual event for customers of the AIG property casualty insurance companies in the U.K. and Europe, and planned months before the Federal Reserve Bank of New York's loan to AIG," company spokesman Peter Tulupman said. The recreating executives spent about $86,000—a drop in the bucket really, given that it has now received $123 billion in loans announced since Sept. 16. What’s all the fuss about?

Do we see a trend here? This is a company with no accountability, no sense of responsibility, no concept of fairness, obligation, or respect for the American taxpayer. It is, moreover, run by rank incompetents. Why would anyone expect such a company not to pay its foolish, rash and greedy executives obscene salaries and bonuses? Why would anyone expect those executives to treat the assets of the company, now propped up by taxpayer funds, with anything but cavalier abandon? This is a corporate culture in which ethics has died. Ethics Dunce? Ethics Corpse is more like it.

But dunces are in the mix too, evidently. What do you call someone who lends billions of dollars to a corpse?




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