Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says the heads of embattled insurance giant A.I.G. ought to follow the honorable example of the Japanese and either resign or kill themselves. That follows news the company gave $165-million in bonuses to its executives after taking $170-billion in government bailout money.
"What I’m expressing here obviously is not that I want people to commit suicide, that’s not my notion," Grassley says. "I do feel very strongly that we have not had statements of apology, statements of remorse, statements of contrition on the part of CEOs."
Grassley says the Japanese business leaders who don’t commit suicide in disgrace, "come before the public, bow very, very deeply and express regret" and accept full responsibility for their errors. He says American leaders in manufacturing, insurance and financial services industries have no similar conscience.
Grassley says the U.S. taxpayers can’t understand why they should continue "shoveling money out the door" to corporate leaders who "show no appreciation." "They are responsible for running their corporation into the ground," Grassley says. "Now they’re coming to the taxpayers for help, and have been coming to the taxpayers for help for the last six months. It’s very difficult for the American people to understand the justification for it."
President Obama is searching for options that would allow the government to cut off or recall the millions in bonuses A.I.G. is giving its top brass. Grassley, a Republican, says he agrees with Obama’s efforts and says he’d do the same thing if he were president.
"I’m not a lawyer and I know there’s some contractual arrangements in the constitution that may obligate this money to be paid, but I would let the courts decide that," Grassley says. "I would go after the money. I’d take the money back and let the people sue me to get it back if they thought they had a justification for having it."
Two hearings in Congress this week will zero in on the insurance industry where it’s expected A.I.G. will be the target of much wrath.