Fifteen of the largest 20 bonuses distributed by AIG, totaling about $30 million of their payments, have been returned, according to New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
Some of the bonus recipients have refused to give back the payments, others have been unable to be contacted, and other holdouts are still deliberating while they consider the tax ramifications, Cuomo told reporters during a conference call.
He added that 9 of the top 10 recipients had given back the bonuses.
In total, he predicts that $80 million will be returned, noting that only 47% of the payouts went to American employees of the embattled firm.
Cuomo praised those who returned the money for their responsiveness to public outrage, stating that they had "risen to the occasion."
Addressing those employees, Cuomo said, "You have done the right thing...what this country needs and demand. ... We're living in a new era of corporate and individual responsibility."
Though he denied any implicit threat, Cuomo seemed to reveal his negotiation tactics by emphasizing that those who return the money "will no longer be on a list that would ever be revealed."
Last Wednesday, AIG CEO Edward Liddy told a Congressional committee that some of the firm's executives have begun returning all or part of bonuses totaling $165 million but he did not offer any details. And the next day, the House voted to tax away 90 percent of the extra pay for executives at AIG and many other bailed-out firms.
Bloomberg News provided more information on how Cuomo got AIG employees to return the money:
Cuomo, who got the names of AIG's bonus recipients last week after he subpoenaed them, said yesterday in a conference call with reporters that he was continuing to assess the security risks of releasing the names. He said he won't identify those who give back the bonuses.
"If a person returns the money, I don't believe there's a public interest in releasing their name," Cuomo said. Of the bonuses paid by the New York-based insurer, about 47 percent went to Americans, who are within his jurisdiction, Cuomo said.
Cuomo's office issued a statement, detailing that about $50 million in total has been returned by AIG bonus recipients.
Below is the statement:
My Office's investigation of AIG is continuing and we are proceeding
with our security assessment for the employees. Through that process, my Office has been working with AIG and its employees in an attempt to assess the status of the $165 million in bonuses that were paid on March 15, 2009.
We have been working our way down the list beginning with the recipients who received the largest bonuses. So far, 9 of the top 10 bonus recipients have agreed to give the bonuses back. Of the top 20, 15 have agreed to return the bonuses.
Of the $165 million pool, we calculate that employees have agreed to return approximately $50 million. It bears noting that 47 percent of the $165 million pool went to Americans (approximately $80 million).
I would like to say this to the individuals who have given the money back - You have done the right thing. You have done what this country now needs and demands. We are living in a new era of corporate and individual responsibility. I thank you for setting an example for the
rest of the company.
I thank those employees. Our investigation and security assessment continues.
An email obtained by CNBC seems to suggest that employees felt pressured to give up their names out of fear that they would be identified by Cuomo's office.
The email sent by Gerard Pasciucco, who was hired by AIG CEO Edward Liddy to wind down the controversial Financial Products division states:
"Please be aware that we have received assurances from Attorney General Cuomo that no names will be released by his office before he completes a security review which is expected to take at least a week. To the extent that we meet certain participation targets, it is not expected that the names would be released, at all."
READ THE ENTIRE MEMO: