January 1, 2010


A month ago, I was reading one of those websites where people post their modest wishes and ask readers for help. One man in particular struck me: He'd lost his job, his wife was working to keep the family afloat and his wish was for someone to replace his wife's single ratty bra. He'd scraped together $10 and they bought a new one from Walmart, but it didn't really fit and hurt her to wear it.

He talked about how awful it was, to not even be able to afford this for his wife. I remember reading it and thinking how very little so many people in this country have, and how much we take for granted.

Now, compare and contrast that story with this one:

NEW YORK, Dec 30 (Reuters) - A top executive at American International Group Inc (AIG.N) has resigned because of pay curbs imposed by the Obama Administration's pay czar, the insurer said on Wednesday.

Anastasia Kelly, AIG's vice chairman for legal, human resources, corporate affairs and corporate communications, resigned effective Dec. 30 for "good reason" and is eligible for severance pay under the terms of the company's executive severance plan, the insurer said.

Kelly stands to be paid about $2.8 million in severance, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Kelly's resignation comes after Kenneth Feinberg, who is charged with monitoring pay levels at companies that received taxpayer funds, imposed pay caps for AIG's top executives.

Earlier this month, Feinberg set the compensation structures for the 26th through 100th highest-paid employees at four firms, including AIG, limiting most cash salaries to $500,000.

Feinberg also granted less than a dozen special exemptions from the cash salary cap, including several AIG executives, after being urged to do so by Federal Reserve and Treasury officials.

Kelly met frequently with Feinberg to discuss pay issues as he prepared to rule on compensation at companies that received extraordinary taxpayer bailouts.

She was among five executives reported by The Wall Street Journal to have notified the insurer that they were prepared to resign and collect severance benefits if their pay was cut sharply by Feinberg. Chief Executive Robert Benmosche separately also had considered quitting because of the pay constraints, the Journal has reported.

Cornelius Hurley, director of the Morin Center for Banking and Financial Law at Boston University, said no AIG employee was irreplaceable.

"We have been duped into thinking that these AIG employees have some kind of secret code that no other employee could discover if they were hired to replace them and therefore they are able to basically hold the company ransom," Hurley said.

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