19 March 2009

AIG in the News ~ A Cross Border Comparison

Photograph © Stephen Crowley/The New York Times.

This morning I was getting coffee here in Vancouver and, as I was waiting on line, noticed an interesting contrast on the newspaper rack. Both The New York Times and The Globe and Mail carried front page, above the fold stories on the testimony that Edward Liddy, the new CEO of AIG, gave before a subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee yesterday [1] [2]. As you probably know, AIG executives accepted bonuses, paid for out of their publicly financed bail-out funds. So much for performance-based compensation. And the Congressmen and women wanted to chat with Mr. Liddy about that slight impropriety. (The Congressional outrage is posturing mostly, since they signed the blank check last fall, but, hey ...)

So far, so good. But notice the contrasting images that accompany each story. The photographs from The Times are on top here, while I've lifted the entire front page from the G&M. From The Times we get tightly framed close-ups with no 'distractions.' Politics, after all, is serious business. From The Globe & Mail we get a sense of active citizenry - those inimitable folks from Code Pink giving Mr. Liddy the hard time he deserves. Democracy, after all, is not so neat. And while Mr. Liddy might well complain that he is only a public spirited individual who agreed to assume leadership of AIG once it had been bailed out, that hardly absolves him of accountability.
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PS: In fairness, The Times story does note that "Mr. Liddy ... chatted with protesters as he entered the session for hours of testimony" and they did include some photos that showed protesters on their web page.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Stan B. said...

Go back to enjoying your life, Jim! Not much is going to change elsewhere...

20 March, 2009 10:08  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Stan,

I knew could rely on sound advice from frineds about how to best invest my time! Thanks! ;-]

20 March, 2009 10:57  
Blogger Pac Mclaurin said...

I think you misspoke. The bonuses that are the cause of so much consternation are not "Performance-based compensation." They are so called "retention bonuses" which are deals made to pay a person so much bonus money to remain employed at their job for a defined period of time. This is apparently a fairly common business practice. I am a leftish, liberal physician so I am certainly no authority, but this was explained on NPR the other afternoon by someone purported to be an expert. If that is the case then misidentifying these bonuses only further fires the near lynch mob response they have engendered. Maybe Mr. Liddy is not such a bad sort after all?

20 March, 2009 13:25  
Blogger Jim Johnson said...

Pac, My reference was meant to be sarcastic - why would anyone from the old regime at AIG deserve a bonus for anything? Why would we want to retain the great minds who ran the company into the ditch, thereby threatening many others as well? Liddy was not responsible for the bad performance. But the bonuses were doled out under his watch.

The problem with American Capitalism is that no one ever loses a job for being incompetent and for failing (at least no one responsible for making crappy decisions - the employees lose jobs while the managers and bosses get bonuses).
JJ

20 March, 2009 18:33  

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