White House orders legal action over bonuses for AIG traders

Employees at AIG's London-based derivatives business face losing $165m (£117m) in retention bonuses amidst a political firestorm in the US. Barack Obama stepped in to the row yesterday to order that AIG, which was nationalised by the US government to stop it going bust last year, use all legal means to avoid paying the bonuses.

A White House official last night suggested that a $30bn cash infusion from the government, which was announced two weeks ago but has not yet been paid, could be made contingent on the scrapping of the payments.

The financial products division wrote insurance on trillions of dollars of mortgage derivatives and other credit market instruments, but proved unable to meet its obligations when the economy went into a dive. Some $170bn in US government money has gone to pay off trading partners.

It has emerged that financial products group employees will receive $450m in bonuses. Mr Obama called it an "outrage" and demanded that the Treasury use its leverage and "pursue every legal avenue" to have the payments rescinded.

"This is a corporation that finds itself in financial distress due to recklessness and greed," he said. "Under these circumstances, it's hard to understand how derivative traders at AIG warranted any bonuses, much less $165m in extra pay. How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat?"

New York's attorney-general, Andrew Cuomo, was also circling the company yesterday, demanding to know who was getting the cash and whether the company could avoid paying out by claiming the money was the proceeds of fraud. Mr Cuomo said he would issue subpoenas if AIG didn't voluntarily surrender the names of the employees receiving bonuses. "Covering up the details of these payments breeds further cynicism and distrust in our already shaken financial system," he said.

The political row has only intensified since news of the bonuses emerged. Over the weekend, Larry Summers and Austan Goolsbee, Mr Obama's two top economic advisers, both described the payments as outrageous, but suggested that there had been no way to legally stop them.

Yesterday, Barney Frank, chairman of the House of Representatives financial services committee, said that many of the employees should be fired to save money, if there was really no way to stop the payments.

The money is coming out of a pool for retention bonuses, so that AIG can keep staff it needs to help wind down the derivatives business, the insurer has said. The process of unpicking its network of trading relationships has proved even more complex than it seemed last September, when the government decided the company was too big to let fail.

Over the weekend, AIG revealed details of which trading partners received the largest payments of government money during its first three-and-a-half months on government life support. The payments included additional collateral for existing obligations and purchases of outstanding credit default swaps, designed to close the trading positions.

Through three separate types of transactions, Goldman Sachs received an aggregate $12.9bn. Among European banks, SocGen was the biggest recipient at $11.9bn, Deutsche Bank got $11.8bn and Barclays had $8.5bn.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmReview: A week late, Secret Cinema arrives as interactive screening goes Back to the Future
Arts and Entertainment
The first film introduced Daniel Radcliffe to our screens, pictured here as he prepares to board the train to Hogwarts for the first time.
booksHow reading Harry Potter helps children grow up to be gay-friendly
News
Chancellor George Osborne, along with the Prime Minister, have been 'complacently claiming the economy is now fixed', according to shadow Chancellor Ed Balls
i100... which is awkward, because he is their boss, after all
Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
Arts and Entertainment
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux play teeneage lovers in the French erotic drama 'Blue Is The Warmest Colour' - The survey found four times as many women admitting to same-sex experiences than 20 years ago
filmBlue Is The Warmest Colour, Bojack Horseman and Hobbit on the way
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
i100
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
Arts and Entertainment
Preparations begin for Edinburgh Festival 2014
Edinburgh festivalAll the best shows to see at Edinburgh this year
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Financial Analyst - Forecasting - Yorkshire

£300 - £350 per day: Orgtel: Financial Analyst, Forecasting, Halifax, Banking,...

Business Architect - Bristol - £500 per day

£500 per day: Orgtel: Business Architect - Banking - Bristol - £500 per day A...

Regulatory Reporting-MI-Bank-Cardiff-£300/day

£200 - £500 per day + competitive: Orgtel: I am currently working on a large p...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Real Staffing

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Real Staffing are currently lo...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices