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Granite Falls Advocate Tribune - Granite Falls, MN
  • Editorial: Another poke in the eye from a ‘too big to fail’

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  • Ultimately, insurance giant AIG decided not to join a lawsuit against the federal government brought by shareholders alleging that big, bad Uncle Sam went too hard on them in the process of saving their bacon. On behalf of taxpayers, thanks for having mercy on us.
    One supposes that the AIG board had no choice, legally speaking, but to hear out those unhappy shareholders, led by former CEO and major investor Maurice Greenberg. Nonetheless, the people who run the place will forgive those Americans who view them as “the poster company for corporate ingratitude and chutzpah,” according to a couple of lawmakers. It certainly would have been the height of biting the hand that feeds you had the board gone the other way this week.
    In fact, the 2008, $182 billion bailout, courtesy of taxpayers, was the only thing standing between AIG and bankruptcy, and suing shareholders have not contended otherwise. They almost certainly would have taken a much bigger bath had that safety net not been available. No one put a gun to AIG’s head forcing the company to take the help or, with eyes wide open, to accept its terms. Yet that hasn’t stopped the shareholders who made a bad bet on a reckless company and didn’t want to accept accountability for it from arguing that the bailout was essentially a public taking, in violation of the Fifth Amendment, for which they are now allegedly owed greater compensation.
    Americans should not have short memories here. This is the same outfit that, not even a week after being rescued by Uncle Sam, treated some 70 employees, including 10 senior executives, to a week-long luxury vacation at a California coastal resort, running up a tab of $442,000. They accepted our generosity and then poked us in the eye for it. Greed and thanklessness to such extreme is nothing short of sinful. If AIG didn’t top the list of most hated companies in America, well, it was - or should have been - a contender.
    So excuse those of us who watch AIG’s TV commercials and hear the company say, “Thank you, America,” for finding that more than a bit insincere, and for wondering whether immorally and incompetently led corporations should just be allowed to go under while taxpayers wave from shore. Problem is, we risk sinking to the bottom with them.
    Indeed, where the federal government can be faulted is in not seeing to it that taxpayers won’t be exposed to such assaults again by taking action to ensure no institution is “too big to fail.” Taxpayers clearly aren’t held in that same high regard.
    Journal Star of Peoria, Ill.
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