The Washington Post reports that American International Group (AIG) is poised to pay workers in its Financial Products Group (FPG) a $100 million bonus today. FPG sold credit default swaps (CDSs), a form of bond insurance, without reserving against the possibility that it would have to pay claims on them. And that group is primarily responsible for America’s $182.3 billion AIG bailout in September 2008.
In a normal business, you pay bonuses to top-performing employees if the business earns a hefty profit. So, of course, AIG must have earned a profit, right? Not exactly. It lost $99 billion in 2008 and $5 billion in the first three quarters of 2009. So why do these people now deserve a bonus?
AIG defenders might argue that the $100 million bonus — an average of only $500,000 per employee — is a great deal because FPG’s 200 employees were originally scheduled for a nearly $200 million bonus this March after getting $168 million last year, according to the Post. Do the folks at FPG deserve even that $100 million for contributing to a company that has generated over $100 billion in losses in the last two years?