New York (HedgeCo.Net) – As the national outrage over bonuses paid to AIG execs reaches epic proportions, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner promised the government will recoup the $165 million that was shelled out using bailout money.
“We will impose on AIG a contractual commitment to pay the Treasury from the operations of the company the amount of retention rewards just paid,” Geithner wrote, after claiming it would be difficult to physically take back the bonuses. “In addition, we will deduct from the $30 billion in assistance an amount equal to the amount of those payments.”
Arguing that the U.S. government essentially owns a majority of the failed insurance giant, Chairman of the House Financial Services Committee Barney Frank said, “I think the time has to exercise our ownership rights, and then say, as owner, ‘No, I’m not paying you the bonus. You didn’t perform. You didn’t live up to this contract.’”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi agreed, saying she would urge members to draft legislation this week that could recoup frivolous spending from taxpayer-funded aid.
“Most appallingly, while millions of Americans struggle through this economy, those who have received the largest measure of taxpayer assistance from the Treasury Department have shown no restraint,” Pelosi said.
New York Senator Charles Schumer warned that if those bonuses were not returned to their “rightful owners,” then Congress would pass laws to tax those bonuses “at a very high rate.” Senate Finance Committee members agreed, proposing taxes as high as 70 percent on those payments.
While disdain over the issue may have caused Barack Obama to act swiftly, the nearly decimated public opinion on bailouts may pose a problem for institutions seeking government funds going forward. AIG has so far received $173 billion of taxpayer-funded federal assistance.
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