NEW YORK - About half of the $165 million in retention bonuses paid by American International Group Inc. may be retrieved, and nine of the top 10 recipients have agreed to give back their bonuses, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said yesterday.
Cuomo, who had hinted he would reveal the names of the bonus recipients, said yesterday there was no "public interest" in identifying those who return the money.
Cuomo said 15 of the top 20 bonus recipients had agreed to give back their entire bonuses, accounting for $30 million. Employees had agreed to return $50 million in all, and it might be possible to recoup $80 million, he said.
AIG paid the retention bonuses this month to employees of its Financial Products unit, whose losses almost drove the company out of business.
The bonuses, granted while AIG was getting a federal bailout package valued at $182.5 billion, sparked outrage from President Obama, lawmakers, and the public. The company has said its employees have been subject to hate mail, harassment, and death threats.
Cuomo, who got the names of AIG's bonus recipients last week after he subpoenaed them, said in a conference call with reporters that he was continuing to assess the security risks of releasing the names.
"If a person returns the money, I don't believe there's a public interest in releasing their name," Cuomo said. Of the bonuses paid by the New York-based insurer, 47 percent went to Americans, who are within his jurisdiction, Cuomo said.
"We are deeply gratified that a vast majority of FP's senior leadership have expressed a willingness to forsake their recent retention payments," AIG said in an e-mailed statement. "We continue to review the responses of our other FP employees."
AIG said its employees were in the midst of an "orderly wind-down" of the Financial Products business.
Cuomo said his office has had some direct conversations with bonus recipients. He said there was no implied threat for people who don't give up the bonuses that their names would be released. He said some people had refused to give back the bonuses.
Cuomo has pursued the bonuses based on a New York law involving so-called fraudulent conveyance. If the AIG contracts were signed when people involved knew the company's finances were in trouble, it could lead to fraudulent conveyance, he says.
Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said yesterday he was in discussions with AIG about employees subpoenaed last week to testify before the state's Banks Committee Thursday. The Financial Products unit is located in Wilton, Conn.
"We are mindful of security and safety concerns, seeking to be responsive and responsible in addressing them," Blumenthal said in a statement. "If AIG fails to cooperate, we will take appropriate and aggressive action to enforce these lawful subpoenas."
AIG said the company continues to talk to Connecticut about the best way to provide the information "that allows for a thoughtful discussion of this issue and removes the overheated emotion that has swirled around it and resulted in our employees being subjected to death threats, hate mail, and harassment."