Dear Mr. DeSantis:
Thank you for your heartfelt resignation letter printed today in the New York Times.
I would be remiss if I did not reply with a few comments. Since your company is now effectively owned by the government to which I pay taxes, consider this a reply from one of your employers.
You concede that you and your colleagues may have been overcompensated overall for your work in the past. You’ve worked ten or twelve-hour days in the past few years, and your division of AIG-F.P. made a profit. You do not discuss the exact compensation you received during those previous years. Yet in this year, after your company as a whole has suffered a catastrophic failure, has received massive amounts of public funds and your work has consisted of dismantling your company’s financial products division you believe you have earrned your after-tax compensation, paid in the form of a “retention bonus” of $742,006.
Again, that’s your after-tax income, being paid by a company which lost more money than any other business in history, after it came close to destroying the entire global financial system. I don’t work the same hours you do, and I don’t produce profit for a company as you once did, but that’s just shy of a decade’s worth of work for me. And I’m exceptionally well-compensated in comparison to 90% of working Americans.
I appreciate that you’re going to give away this money to charities working to undo the damage your company and others caused. Respectfully, may I suggest that you don’t understand that many of us believe that if you reaped the benefits of your company’s risky conduct, you should be exposed in equal measure to its failure. This should not just mean that you lose whatever value you held through AIG’s stock, but that your compensation this year should reflect your company’s failure. The fact that there is anything at all available to compensate you is a consequence of your company being bailed out by the American taxpayer.
You observe that you should not be cheated of your payment any more than a plumber who fixed the pipes should be robbed of payment if an electrician subsequently burns the house down. You might want to make that analogy more precise. If the plumber who fixed the pipes was employed by the same contractor as the electrician, worked on the pipes while the electrician was connecting the wiring to the plumbing system, and watched as the electrician laid a trail of flowing gasoline between all the homes in the neighborhood, then the plumber might reasonably expect that his own payment might be at risk.