A.I.G., better known as American International Group, is an insurance company that lost $61.7 billion dollars in the fourth quarter of 2008 (a new record) Then got $170 billion dollare of taxpayer money to save it from going bankrupt
A.I.G. then gave its top executives $165 million dollars in “Bonus” pay. All the news outlets are talking about this with the appropriate amount of Hollywood Outrage; but considering what has been going on in corporate culture I don’t see how anybody can be surprised by this, anymore that they can be surprised by the car company executives flying in private jets to Washington to ask for taxpayer bailout money.
What we’re talking about here is arrogance created by “immunity from responsibility”. The executives of corporations have spent years building defensive walls around them to protect them from legal prosecution of any kind. It’s gotten to the point that the average private citizen can’t touch them if the corporation commits a wrong against them.
The basic structure of a corporation insures that a citizen can sue the coproration for damages, but the executives can not be sued for any wrong doing. As outrageous as this is, it’s not enough for the executives. They have built ever more defenses to protect them from liability. A good one is “indemnification”; what this means is that if you sued a corporation, you have to pay for your attorney AND the attorney from the coproration. This by itself makes filing a lawsuit against a corporation just too expensive for the average citizen. Imagine if you go to court to have your case presented and the only thing you hear is the corporate lawyer ask for a postponemnt that will cost you $10,000 dollars in legal fees to have nothing done; the average guy just can not afford this.
If you sign a contract with a corporation, it most likely will have a clause something like this “the corporation can change the terms of this agreement at any time”; what this means is that you have made yourself a “slave” subject to the will of the corporation. They can now make you responsible for anything they want. They can say that if you want to sue them, you have to go to a court house on the other side of the country. They can say they want you to pay them $1,000 a day for any reason they can think of, or require you to mow their lawn or paint the corporate headquarters. Anthing. This sort of “open contract” is clearly bad for you, but great for the corporation.
Then there is the cozy relationship the corporations have with the government that they use through their lobbyists to get favors. The average citizen doesn’t have such a relationship with the government, they only get to vote every two to four years or by sending letters that are ignored, but the corporation lobbyists are there every day in smoke filled back rooms (Democracy anyone). This is why when the corporations got angry at the Unions for raising the cost of labor to a living wage, they were able to use their government contacts to allow them to use cheap foreign labor to make products to sell in the higher priced American market. They have the best of two worlds, cheap foreign labor and the high priced American market got the corporations some really big profit margins; this is why they have a dozen homes, 500 foot yachts and private jets. A million dollar bonus is chump change to them.
NOW, they have even more than immunity from prosecution, tax breaks and favored treatment from the government in laws that are passed, NOW they have immunity from having to do anything at all. They can fail completely in the job they are supposed to do and still get multi-million dollar bonuses! Isn’t socialism wonderful!
Corporate culture has to change, they have to be made accountable for their actions. But then again, isn’t “Change” what Barack H. Obama was talking about.–I’m waiting.