Chief executive apologises and offers explanation

Robert Benmosche

American International Group (AIG) chief executive Robert Benmosche has further explained his comparison of AIG criticism to lynch mob attacks.

Last month, Benmosche said that the US government was unfair to campaign against the partial bonuses lined up for hundreds of staff in AIG’s financial products division after the company’s rescue package.

Benmosche said that “fewer than 10” AIG staff were responsible for the bad trades, and that the bonuses were part of core remuneration packages.

He added that the outcry at the bonuses was “intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitchforks and their hangman nooses, and all that – sort of like what we did in the Deep South [decades ago]. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong.”

But today Benmosche apologised for his comments to US congressman Elijah Cummings, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“In our meeting, I apologised for my reference to the South and the impact that it had on him and others,” Benmosche said.

Cummings had called for Benmosche to resign after his original comments.

Benmosche told Cummings that he was originally trying to explain how AIG employees feared for their safety during the bonus controversy.

He said: “It’s never right, and when it happens it should not be trivialised or dismissed lightly, as it too often was in the context of AIG. “And when I referred to the South, I unintentionally trivialised a horrible legacy of our country. That was the opposite of my intent.”