AIG spa trip redux: Canceled!

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As if one trip to a luxury spa resort wasn't enough for American International Group (AIG) following its taxpayer-funded bailout, the company had plans to do it all over again.

50 AIG managers were scheduled to do a deluxe retreat at the Ritz-Carlton resort in Half Moon Bay. The company said it was going to host 150 top-producing agents for educational purposes.

The cost of this "educational opportunity?" Ritz Carlton rooms go for $300 to $1,200 a night, plus high costs for meals, drinks, and entertainment. If the earlier trip is any indication, this whole extravaganza could cost the company around $500,000.

Outrage from taxpayers has led management to cancel this outing, and lawmakers are relieved. Some defended the trips as standard fare for high-level producers for insurance companies. The independent agents win these trips by selling a lot of insurance products. Yet it seems excessive in light of the taxpayer assistance required by AIG.

With taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars of loans made to AIG to help keep them in business, the company needs to find another way to give incentives to the sales force. Standard industry practice or not, these trips don't go over well during a time when belts are being tightened by the little guys. The cancellation of the trip is good news for now. Let's see what AIG comes up with next.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.
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