AIG CEO Compares Criticism of Wall Street Bonuses to Jim Crow Lynchings

Key Speakers At Standard & Poor's 29th Annual Insurance Conference
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Bank executives have spent the years since the financial collapse defending their industry's fat bonuses against criticism. AIG CEO Robert Benmosche just went way off the deep end in trying to defend those bonuses.

Benmosche recently sat down with the Wall Street Journal to chat about the efforts he's taken since to stabilize AIG, which was bailed out by the government. And today the paper posted some quotes that were cut from the original piece, including an inflammatory take on the bonus controversy.

The bonus controversy, he told the paper, "was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks 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."

That's right: Criticizing millionaire bank executives for getting excessive bonuses is "just as bad" as Jim Crow-era lynchings.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%The comment is predictably getting Benmosche a heap of criticism. Matt Taibi, a frequent critic of the banking sector, blasted him on Twitter, and Slate's Matthew Yglesias observed, "The self-regard, egomania, and touchy defensiveness of the finance profession continues to amaze."

Benmosche wasn't totally off-base when he noted that "bonuses" tend to make up core compensation in the financial industry, a fact lost on much of the public. But any constructive dialogue he hoped to have on the issue is inevitably going to be overshadowed by his ridiculous and offensive analogy.