BUSINESS
04/22/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

AIG CEO Liddy Defends Bonuses: "Those People Don't Want To Work For Free"

Edward M. Liddy, the would-be rescuer of American International Group (AIG) who has become a target of wrath over Wall Street excesses and the ravages of the recession, knows all too well what is driving that anger. "There's fear in America," says Liddy, who came out of retirement last September to run AIG for the government for $1 a year. "People are very concerned about their jobs, their homes, their pensions."

And Liddy, who is no fan of the multimillion-dollar bonuses agreed to by his predecessors at AIG even while he tolerates them, knows very personally what such fear and want mean. Liddy, who earned more than $130 million over eight years leading Allstate (ALL) until 2007, grew up so poor that he, his mother, and sister were thrown out of their homes at times after his father died when he was 12. There were days, he says, when food was short in his native New Brunswick, N.J. "We'd have dinner for three and food for two and my mother would say, 'I don't feel well right now. You two go ahead,' recalls Liddy, now 63. "You can believe I know the angst of the American taxpayer and what's happening in economically uncertain times."

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