An uglier side to the AIG story

Were you convinced that the antics surrounding American International Group (AIG) couldn't get any worse? After all, there was that big $85 billion bailout... which somehow almost doubled within a matter of weeks. Then there were the stories of spa trips and luxury resorts. Taxpayers are rightfully dismayed at the thought of bailing out a company with their money, only to see funds squandered.

(Yes, I understand that the trips were by people in a subsidiary that is a different one than the one that needed to be bailed out... But it's all AIG and when one part of the company spends money, the whole company is spending money.)

But there's another side to the AIG story that hasn't been talked about as much. AIG employees are being harassed and threatened by angry consumers. Stock market celebrity Jim Cramer of Mad Money television fame told his viewers to harass AIG employees in public. Seriously? Most of the employees of AIG aren't to blame for the company's mess. Upper management is. The employees don't deserve to be harassed just for doing their jobs or being a part of a sketchy company.
AIG employees participating in a United Way walk (which was sponsored by AIG and also financially supported by employee contributions) were yelled at and insulted by onlookers. AIG employees participating in a University of Houston event that included tailgating before a football game were also heckled and harassed by other adults in attendance.

Is all this really necessary? These are just a few examples of what's happening, and a company representative told me that some employees are uncomfortable when leaving work, hoping that others don't identify them as AIG employees.

This kind of stuff is out of hand. And as much as I hate how AIG has done business and question whether the company is doing the right thing with taxpayer funds, this doesn't give people a right to harass and intimidate employees. They're just trying to earn a living like the rest of us.

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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