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Personalizing the Banker’s Fate: Jake DeSantis Resigns from AIG

By Brian | March 26, 2009 | Share on Facebook

Jake DeSantis, an executive vice-president in AIG’s Financial Products Unit, has resigned from the company. Rather than giving back his retention bonus (as requested by CEO Ed Liddy and many members of Congress), he has decided to donate all of the after-tax proceeds to charities that will help those disadvantaged by the Current Financial Crisis(TM). He also sent his resignation letter to the New York Times, who printed it in their Op-Ed section.

Here’s a pull quote:

I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.

After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.

I think the letter is excellent. It highlights, in a way no outsider could, how cavalier the court of public opinion has been in painting all bank and financial services employees with the same brush, and how these retention packages were seen by those within the company. Reading it, I hope some will begin to see this money as a prudent investment in the future of a company, and an unfortunate public relations disaster, which has little or nothing to do with the vast problems we seek to solve.

If you’re all interested in what I wrote here, here, or most especially here, I strongly implore you to click through and read the whole thing.

Topics: Money Talk | 12 Comments »

12 Responses to “Personalizing the Banker’s Fate: Jake DeSantis Resigns from AIG”

  1. jason says at March 26th, 2009 at 4:30 pm :
    Brian, I was going to say this on one of your earlier AIG entries, but, me being me, I procrastinated and never got around to it.

    As you know from the issue we’ve been discussing over at my blog, I share your irritation with the torches-and-pitchfork mentality, the failure of our news media to explain the nuances of big stories, and a news culture that seems to subsist on one ginned-up outrage after another. (There were some good comments on that subject at Time.com the other day; if you missed it, go here.)

    But there’s something I think you’re failing to take into account, which is that the way Wall Street people get paid is completely foreign to the vast majority of Americans, and that, as much as anything, is what’s at the root of the anger over AIG. It’s not that “the court of public opinion” is cavalier so much as it is that it’s functioning under a different paradigm.

    You recently wrote “I know I have the opportunity to earn more than my expected salary if I (and my firm) exceed expectations.” But that’s not how it is for most people. Barring either a raise or termination, the average working joe doesn’t see that much variation in their pay. They don’t have negotiated contracts (unless they’re union, which is less and less of a factor in this country) or sliding scales based on goals and conditions. The only way they can earn more than their “expected amount” is to work overtime (assuming their employer plays fair and pays overtime, which many find ways around, in my experience) or take a second job. So the idea of pay tied to corporate performance is an alien concept for many people. Even the fact that you get a salary as opposed to a wage is a disconnect. Most folks I know are paid by the hour. (Fair disclosure: I’m salaried myself, but it’s strictly a set amount — I don’t get any kind of performance bonus, or any other kind of bonus either.)

    There’s a language problem in this equation as well, especially when it comes to the word “bonus.” Wall Street, like any other industry, has a very specific lingo that doesn’t jibe for people outside the industry. Average people don’t talk about “compensation”; they get paid. And when they hear the word “bonus,” they understand it to be either a reward or a gift, not simply “another part of salary.” When they hear that banking execs are getting bonuses, they’re not hearing “contractually agreed-upon, non-sinister, honestly earned pay.” They’re hearing something very different, and very infuriating, according to their definitions.

    Don’t misunderstand; I’m not trying to antagonize you. I agree that the bonus issue has been misunderstood and way overblown. But I think it’s important to consider that one of the big contributing factors to this mess is a clash of cultures (some would use the term “class war”; I don’t know that I’d go that far). It seems to me that people in the financial industry don’t understand how different they are from everyone else in certain key respects, and in their ignorance, they keep antagonizing the mobs by just doing what they do and speaking the way they speak.

  2. jason says at March 26th, 2009 at 4:30 pm :
    sorry for the blog-entry-length comment. :)

  3. Brian says at March 26th, 2009 at 9:21 pm :
    Jason, first of all – your thoughts are very much appreciated, so feel free to say as much (or as little) as you like.

    As to the content of what you said, I think you make a very good point. In fact, I think your point is a direct outgrowth of mine. If the media’s job is to inform the public, and the public has such a strong misperception/misunderstanding of how Wall Street works, then I’d submit that the media is doing a really lousy job.

    I should also add: under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t expect most of America to know or care how Wall Street compensation works (just as I have no idea how the proofreading industry works). But if it’s front and center in the media spotlight, and Congress is passing laws to change the tax law specifically for bankers, and senators are suggesting that bankers commit suicide, then it might be time for a public tutorial on what we’re talking about here, no?

  4. jason says at March 27th, 2009 at 12:05 am :
    “it might be time for a public tutorial on what we’re talking about here, no?”

    Absolutely! I like to think I’m reasonably well informed, but I’ve honestly got very little grasp on what the hell is going on with our financial industry, how it got this way, or what we need to do to fix it. And if I don’t get it, I can only imagine how tenuous other people’s understanding is. I support and like President Obama, but I am disappointed by his failure to take an hour and just explain all this stuff to the nation — not try to sell a policy, not sharing in our anger, but just tell us what we need to know to make some intelligent decisions. I really expected him to do that.

    For what it’s worth, I thought that suicide remark was unbelievably crass and stupid, and I agree it was unfair that de Santis got pushed out of his job for sins he didn’t commit.

  5. Brian says at March 27th, 2009 at 5:13 pm :
    Agreed, Jason – I’d love to see him do the same. The thing is, we need to remember that President Obama’s goal is not to make us understand these things, but to get the policies he believe will solve our problems through Congress and enacted into law.

    I don’t say this as a criticism of President Obama, mind you, but more of a criticism of our ADD culture, where everyone talks in soundbytes, and everything needs to be over-simplified so that it happens quickly, preferrably within a single news cycle.

    There simply isn’t enough time, interest or attention to go into detail about what happened, how it happened, and why. That used to be the job of the media (remember the five W’s – who, what, when, where, why?) Today, it’s the job of bloggers like us…

    Now, I’m off to watch my site stats and see if I reach 300 million…

  6. Jeff Porten says at March 30th, 2009 at 1:56 am :
    Wow. I expect to hear opinions I don’t agree with when I come here, but it’s rare that I get to hear so much whining.

    Regarding the Op-Ed: it’s nice to know that he has come up with a suitable set of rationalizations that makes him the aggrieved party, and that he’ll be able to sleep at night.

    No, not really. Not at all surprising, though.

    Here’s the basic problem that you’re overlooking: here’s a guy whose resignation letter can get published on the Op-Ed page of the New York Times. The millions of people who have lost their jobs, and whose blood is boiling when they get to the $740,000 paycheck, do not have such access.

    That’s the essential problem, Brian: the anger you’re seeing is a rebellion against the privileged class. The fact that you don’t question DeSantis’ ability to be read by millions when he voluntarily leaves his job because he feels abused, is precisely the differentiation between the way you see this problem, and the way most people do.

    (And having spent most of my political career out of the mainstream, yes, it sucks. Welcome to the club.)

    Meanwhile, as I see it, considering Obama’s constituencies, and who the people were who were out door-to-door for the man, I think he’s been remarkably even-handed in his public statements. If he wanted to sell policy, it would be far more effective if he were out in front leading the crucifixion parade, and scaring the hell out of rebellious Democrats with his massive political capital.

    Instead, he’s charting a course which is much more moderate (and which I thoroughly disagree with), attempting to prop up the system and steer through the crisis with minimal change.

    You want to believe the media isn’t telling the truth? Again, welcome to my world. The fact that anyone who cares to learn can now describe how a sub-prime mortgage pool can get sliced into differently rated investments, indicates to me that the problem is not in the reporting. What you don’t like is that they’re no longer selling your point of view, and you’ve gotten a bit too used to having the world see it your way.

    Again, welcome to the wilderness. If you’re lucky, you won’t spend as much time on the fringe as I have. If not — well, that’s why we blog.

  7. Jeff Porten says at March 30th, 2009 at 2:11 am :
  8. Brian says at March 30th, 2009 at 11:48 am :
    What you don’t like is that [the media is] no longer selling your point of view, and you’ve gotten a bit too used to having the world see it your way. Again, welcome to the wilderness. . .

    Yeah, right. Because I haven’t been the one slamming the media for inaccurately reporting on everything from anti-terrorism policy to hurricane relief efforts to campaign speeches to celebrity gaffes. Sure – I’ve come to trust the media so implicitly that the idea that they’d misreport something as simple and non-controversial as the state of our economy has me flummoxed.

    It is you, my friend, who remains in the wilderness, and I who continues to point out the trees.

    As for Jake DeSantis, I did not suggest that we feel pity for him (and neither did he, by the way). In fact, I was suggesting that the letter would help those who’s blood boils when they read of a $740,000 paycheck. Here’s a guy who’s giving that money to charity (if the federal government doesn’t take it away first), despite having already given up his (substantial) base salary, all while under no legal obligation to do so. He also takes the time to differentiate between things like equity derivatives and credit default swaps, the kinds of details that our leaders and media punditry apparently feel just get in the way of the righteous indignation that we all should be feeling right now.

    Speaking of which, Matt Taibbi is an unadulterated moron. The number of factual mistakes in his article are too numerous to mention, so I’ll just pick out a few:

    First, DeSantis didn’t say he was ignorant of the CDS trades, only that he wasn’t responsible for struturing them. The entire first half of Taibbi’s article deals with knocking down that strawman that he himself conjured.

    Second, Taibbi tells us that half of Wall Street is unemployed right now, and that an ad in the paper would draw “500 recently unemployed CEOs begging for work at almost any salary in five minutes.” Setting aside his penchant for pulling numbers out of thin air, Taibbi proves here that his nose is so buried in the Op-Ed section, that he hasn’t bothered to read the business page in a while. Here is an article listing four key execs that switched jobs the week of March 11, with mention of three more who left the previous week. This week, my employer alone has announced three more key execs who have moved on – all to either boutique firms who are privately capitalized or to banks incorporated outside of the United States (primarily Canada, Switzerland and the Far East), where U.S. Government meddling isn’t as a big a concern.

    Third, Taibbi feigns surprise that brokers exist in the first place:

    It’s remarkable that when DeSantis, in his letter, touts the reason he deserves his high compensation, all he can talk about is how much money he made: “The profitability of the businesses with which I was associated clearly supported my compensation.”

    For a guy like this, his worth as a human being is wrapped up in buying a bag of beans for $10 and selling it for $11. He states this like it’s a law of nature: he was a good equities-and-commodities trader, therefore he should make a lot of money.

    So I guess a good equities and commodities trader shouldn’t make a lot of money? Would he rather DeSantis’ compensation not be tied to the profitability of his business? Should we ignore the millions of people who benefit from the trading of equities and commodities, either directly (like the individual investor) or indirectly (like anyone who’s ever bought food at a grocery store or flown on an airplane?) And let’s not even talk about people who took out mortgages in the last couple of years. Those mortgages provided no benefit to the homeowner whatsoever, right? Those people didn’t need or want homes. They only took the loans to bankrupt themselves while Jake DeSantis made money he didn’t deserve.

    Which brings me to his Piece de Resistance:

    . . . in reality no one “deserves” that much money. It may be that some people do get paid that much, but most people who make that much money have enough sense to realize their cushy lifestyles are an accident of fate, of birth, of class, not something that is “supported” by some unwritten natural law of compensation.

    NO ONE deserves to make $700,000? No one at all? I wonder if Lord Taibbi will please tell us what the maximum deserved salary in the universe is? It would be helpful to all of the entrepreneurs, inventors, and small business owners in the country to know when they can stop working hard, lest their success become the result of a similar “accident.”

    And by the way, I wonder what a columnist for Rolling Stone makes…

  9. Jeff Porten says at April 2nd, 2009 at 10:29 pm :
    Sure – I’ve come to trust the media so implicitly that the idea that they’d misreport something as simple and non-controversial as the state of our economy has me flummoxed.

    It’s not a question of misreporting. It’s a question of dominant memes. Say what you like about the media, but every newspaper has a business section, and there are plenty of all-business newspapers. A newspaper which launched a “labor” section and reported everything from a working-class perspective would be considered hard-left in this country. The anomie I think you’re feeling — and which I think you should start getting used to — is that when fears of Great Depressions come along, the dominant memes change.

    This isn’t to say that business sections are bad, it’s to say that a world where every cable news outlet obsesses on the Dow is not the only possible world to live in, and if we switch away from that kind of thinking, we’re probably going to change some of the underlying rules we take for granted right now. As it stands, it seems like populism is on the upswing, but the populist president is very much trying to stick with the status quo.

    He also takes the time to differentiate between things like equity derivatives and credit default swaps, the kinds of details that our leaders and media punditry apparently feel just get in the way of the righteous indignation that we all should be feeling right now.

    I’m still in a state of questioning just how much of that I’m supposed to need to know, before I can have a valid opinion on the topic. I think there’s something to be said for understanding the metaquestion: things are broken. How did they get broken, and whom should we trust to fix them? Your attempts to take me down into the weeds of the problem sometimes feels useful, and sometimes feels like massive handwaving so we all shut up and continue to trust the putative experts who — whether it’s “their fault” or not — were indisputably running the show until it hit the wall.

    Speaking of which, Matt Taibbi is an unadulterated moron.

    Huh. Well, *I* respect him. I enjoy his writing style and I think he makes cogent arguments. Whereas you claim he’s full of shit, and then counter with more “in the weeds” detail arguments — or by denying that the alternative point of view which argues with your basic assumptions has any validity to begin with.

    Case in point — I happen to agree with Taibbi’s point that it’s impossible to “earn” $740,000 in the same way that you can “earn” $10 an hour. However, you express such disbelief at the concept that I suspect it will be a waste of electrons to attempt debating this with you.

    But part of that argument would be against the wholly sickening Republican theory which you espouse — that hard-working people like entrepreneurs and inventors would suddenly stop if it weren’t for the money. First, this automatically denies “hard-working” status to anyone who genuinely schleps by the hour for a living; second, any entrepreneur or inventor worth a damn sure as hell doesn’t do it only for the money.

    Of course, the Republican theory that a 4.6% change in the tax rate will suddenly destroy the American work ethic is far more odious and misanthropic than what you said, but they’re definitely in the same ballpark.

  10. Brian says at April 3rd, 2009 at 10:48 am :
    A world where every cable news outlet obsesses on the Dow is not the only possible world to live in, and if we switch away from that kind of thinking, we’re probably going to change some of the underlying rules we take for granted right now. As it stands, it seems like populism is on the upswing, but the populist president is very much trying to stick with the status quo.

    That’s because the President knows that populism and capital markets are not antithetical. The Dow 30 represent roughly 20% of all stocks traded on the NYSE. These stocks are traded by institutional investors, yes, but also by the mutual funds in the 401(k)’s and pension funds of the nations auto workers, contractors, teachers, and cops.

    I’m still in a state of questioning just how much of that I’m supposed to need to know, before I can have a valid opinion on the topic.

    So, in other words, “Excuse me, professor, but is that going to be on the test?” C’mon, Jeff – you’re not one for the “fear of the unknown” stuff. CDO’s are not nearly as complex as nuclear weapons proliferation, and you’ve presented papers on that topic, right?

    I think there’s something to be said for understanding the metaquestion: things are broken. How did they get broken, and whom should we trust to fix them?

    Agreed completely. But are you now suggesting that we should discuss how they got broken without understanding how they work in the first place?

    Your attempts to take me down into the weeds of the problem sometimes feels useful, and sometimes feels like massive handwaving so we all shut up and continue to trust the putative experts who — whether it’s “their fault” or not — were indisputably running the show until it hit the wall.

    OK, first of all, I am not nearly capable of taking you into the weeds on the topic of CDO’s. The models that go into pricing these things quite literally require a PhD in quantitative mathematics to understand. What I’m giving you are the basic facts. What you’re giving me amounts to “I don’t care how it broke, just find me the person in charge and hang him.”

    Huh. Well, *I* respect [Matt Taibbi]. I enjoy his writing style and I think he makes cogent arguments.

    I’ll cop to his writing style, but his arguments are only cogent if “cogent” means “pushes the right buttons to sell a lot of magazines.”

    Whereas you claim he’s full of shit, and then counter with more “in the weeds” detail arguments — or by denying that the alternative point of view which argues with your basic assumptions has any validity to begin with.

    OK, I’m not sure how it’s “in the weeds” to point out that DeSantis’ letter never claimed him to be ignorant of AIGFP’s CDS business, that dozens of senior Wall Street executives have changed jobs in the last 3 months, and that brokers provide an actual service to the economy.

    I also left out things like claiming the average AIGFP employee made $9 million per year, and then saying in the very next sentence that the boss made $34 million per year, which accounts for $1 million per employee of that “average” with just one guy. Or claiming that retention bonuses are compensation for turning down other jobs, as if to suggest that time moves backwards, not forwards. Or claiming that retention bonuses are given “instead of” performance bonuses.

    These kinds of statements don’t reflect a “different point of view,” they are bald-faced lies, designed to engender anger by skimming over the truth. And it works. It works so well, in fact, that it renders anyone attempting to correct the lies as “defending the evil doers.” Taibbi perfected this method during the last years of the Bush administration and now he’s doing it again with the bankers.

    Case in point — I happen to agree with Taibbi’s point that it’s impossible to “earn” $740,000 in the same way that you can “earn” $10 an hour. However, you express such disbelief at the concept that I suspect it will be a waste of electrons to attempt debating this with you.

    What if you worked 74,000 hours?

    I don’t mind skipping the socio-economic debate, but I very much would like to know how much you and Mr. Taibbi consider the maximum “earnable” salary. Apparently, it’s somewhere between $20,800 ($10/hour) and $740,000.

    My salary is in that range, so I’m curious if you think I earn it…

    But part of that argument would be against the wholly sickening Republican theory which you espouse — that hard-working people like entrepreneurs and inventors would suddenly stop if it weren’t for the money. First, this automatically denies “hard-working” status to anyone who genuinely schleps by the hour for a living; second, any entrepreneur or inventor worth a damn sure as hell doesn’t do it only for the money.

    Wow…

    OK, first, it’s sickening that people wouldn’t work for no money? Abraham Lincoln didn’t think so…

    Second, calling wealthy people “hard working” doesn’t deny “hard working” status to blue collar workers anymore than calling a dog an animal denies “animal” status to cats.

    And finally, suggesting that entrepreneurs and inventors expect to be paid for their work doesn’t mean they do it “only for the money,” only that money is necessary to, you know – eat. Working for money does not obviate the other reasons one works.

    Three logical fallacies in one, two-sentence paragraph. Very impressive. Matt Taibbi would be proud of you…

  11. Jeff Porten says at April 4th, 2009 at 1:42 am :
    These stocks are traded by institutional investors, yes, but also by the mutual funds in the 401(k)’s and pension funds of the nations auto workers, contractors, teachers, and cops.

    I think this is partially a fairy tale that Wall Street sings to its children. Yes, we’re all in this together. But when a pension fund collapses, and it’s the sole source of income to retirees, they’re in a very different boat than the people who are retired on $5 million versus $20 million. Populism stems from what happens when people notice how many people are in which boat.

    So, in other words, “Excuse me, professor, but is that going to be on the test?” C’mon, Jeff – you’re not one for the “fear of the unknown” stuff. CDO’s are not nearly as complex as nuclear weapons proliferation, and you’ve presented papers on that topic, right?

    You’re misconstruing my point. I’m sure I could understand CDOs to an arbitrary level of precision — although you claim I can’t as I don’t have a PhD in quantitative mathematics. (As opposed to qualitative mathematics?) What I meant is that I feel like I do comprehend them well enough to back up my argument, and that where you feel like my comprehension is faulty, what you’re actually detecting is that I’ve managed to learn the game without buying into your way of playing it.

    In other words, this is an anthropological thing. Your tribe has been dominant since the 1980s. I’m wondering if that will continue to be the case; meanwhile, everyone who stands to gain from the continued dominance of your tribe is running around saying, “learn to understand the world exactly the way we do!”

    But are you now suggesting that we should discuss how they got broken without understanding how they work in the first place?

    Perhaps. To borrow the original Swiftian perspective, the issue isn’t whether Irish children taste better boiled or baked, the issue is whether we should eat them at all.

    What I’m giving you are the basic facts. What you’re giving me amounts to “I don’t care how it broke, just find me the person in charge and hang him.”

    Actually, my thinking is that we should be saying, “find me the person in charge and make sure he’s no longer in charge.” There’s a widespread perception that the people who broke it are now being hired to fix it, both in private industry and within the Obama administration. Where I am is that I’m still trying to figure out who to trust.

    These kinds of statements don’t reflect a “different point of view,” they are bald-faced lies, designed to engender anger by skimming over the truth.

    You give me two choices: reread Taibbi’s article so I can attempt to refute these statements, or let it go. I choose the latter; it’s an unproductive argument. FWIW, Taibbi did not set off my bullshit detector, which IMO I do generally manage to keep turned on when I’m reading a left-wing screed. Take that as you will.

    What if you worked 74,000 hours?

    I’d try that, but I’m fresh out of plutonium for my flux capacitor.

    I don’t mind skipping the socio-economic debate, but I very much would like to know how much you and Mr. Taibbi consider the maximum “earnable” salary. Apparently, it’s somewhere between $20,800 ($10/hour) and $740,000. My salary is in that range, so I’m curious if you think I earn it…

    Let me rephrase. I have an old trick when I’m at a client site and putting up with a bad day or a boring meeting. I picture a bucket, and every seven seconds my client throws a quarter into that bucket. The bucket fills up with quarters regardless of whether I spend that time building something worth ten times as much to a client, convincing them that I should build that something, or waiting for the Executive Director to finish telling me how his something is so much better than any something I could build (despite the fact that it’s broke, and that’s why I’m there).

    The difference between earning ten bucks, and making what we make by the hour, is that I think it’s damned hard to say that what I do in any given seven seconds is necessarily worth that quarter. Sure, when my client is happy, the entire invoice is “earned”. But I picture turning to my client every 28 seconds and saying, “Hand me a dollar”, and the sane response is, “what the hell did you do in the last 28 seconds to earn it?”

    Taking DeSantis’ word for it that he worked 14-hour days (and I don’t, not over a full year — most people overestimate their work time and their work output in working environments), he’s still getting handed a dollar every 16 seconds. He makes an average annual income every three weeks or so.

    I’m sure there are ROI models that prove that we all earn every penny — hey, that’s why we racked up all those Ivy degrees. But tell me you honestly don’t understand the dichotomy I’m pointing out here.

    OK, first, it’s sickening that people wouldn’t work for no money? Abraham Lincoln didn’t think so…

    Wow, yourself. At least when I labeled the banking position as akin to incest, I labeled it satire. You just called me pro-slavery with a straight face.

    Again, the question here is Barney Frank’s. I’m forced to paraphrase from memory as apparently six weeks isn’t long enough for the House to provide a transcript: “What part of your job wouldn’t you do if you weren’t paid your performance bonus?”

    Or to put it another way: you enjoy and take pride in your job, yes? How much of a salary cut would make you quit immediately?

    suggesting that entrepreneurs and inventors expect to be paid for their work doesn’t mean they do it “only for the money,” only that money is necessary to, you know – eat. Working for money does not obviate the other reasons one works.

    Oh, please. Sometimes you make me wonder which one of us went to Wharton. The value of the first $10,000 is a hell of a lot different than the value of the last $10,000 that hits the six-figure mark. The money to eat comes from the first $10K.

    I suggest to you that it is absolutely frakking obvious that anyone who can offer to donate his $740,000 annual salary to charity, is in a financial position where he is not concerned about having enough money to eat. Obvious to everyone, excepting you, if I take your commentary at face value.

  12. Brian says at April 5th, 2009 at 1:44 am :
    There’s a widespread perception that the people who broke it are now being hired to fix it, both in private industry and within the Obama administration. Where I am is that I’m still trying to figure out who to trust.

    (still searching for the analogy that hits home)

    Say you brought your car in for a tune-up and when you got it back, the engine was making a strange sound. Would you take it to: a) the mechanic who did the work and ask him to fix it, b) a different mechanic, or c) a buddy who reads car magazines?

    Most people would start with a) the same mechanic. He screwed up – he should fix it. Also, he’s best positioned to know what he touched and what he didn’t touch, so he can find the problem more quickly. If you determine he’s truly incompetent, you may go with b) another mechanic, but you’d be mentally prepared to pay more money and/or wait longer to get your car fixed. And if you’re really jaded, and believe that mechanics as a group are incompetent, you’d ask an somewhat interested, but ultimately unqualified person for help.

    So, relating back to AIGFP: the people best suited to unwind the contracts are the folks who wrote them. They know them best, and can get rid of them with the least chance of litigation later. We may decide (based on performance, not emotion) that everyone at AIGFP is incompetent, and hand the job over to another brokerage house (as was the case with Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, for instance), but we better be prepared to pump more billions into the problem, both during the resolution of these contracts and later, when the lawsuits start flying around. Finally, we can adopt Matt Taibbi’s stance that all bankers are greed-ridden assholes, and assume that Congress will take care of it.

    Wow, yourself. At least when I labeled the banking position as akin to incest, I labeled it satire. You just called me pro-slavery with a straight face.

    Yeah, I knew that was coming. Obviously, this isn’t slavery, insomuch as people have the right to do what Jake DeSantis did and walk away, and also because many of them have millions of dollars to their names already. That said, you’ve made an implicit moral judgement here – it’s OK to suggest that rich people work for free. They’re rich, so they don’t need the money, and taking a salary for their work is just proof of greed. I disagree with that perspective, and chose to use hyperbole to make the point.

    Barney Frank: “What part of your job wouldn’t you do if you weren’t paid your performance bonus?”

    Jeff: Or to put it another way: you enjoy and take pride in your job, yes? How much of a salary cut would make you quit immediately?

    Much to Rep. Frank’s dismay (and, I’m guessing, to yours) these are very easy questions to answer. Firstly, I don’t get a performance bonus (as, for example, a salesman would if he hit his quota for the year). A portion of my salary is variable, and fluctuates based on my performance, my firm’s performance, and the performance of the industry as a whole. So your question and Rep. Frank’s question is really the same question: how much of a salary cut would make me quit immediately?

    Answer: when my reduced salary goes below the sum of a) what I could earn elsewhere and b) the cost of switching jobs.

    Oh, please. Sometimes you make me wonder which one of us went to Wharton. The value of the first $10,000 is a hell of a lot different than the value of the last $10,000 that hits the six-figure mark. The money to eat comes from the first $10K.

    I suggest to you that it is absolutely frakking obvious that anyone who can offer to donate his $740,000 annual salary to charity, is in a financial position where he is not concerned about having enough money to eat. Obvious to everyone, excepting you, if I take your commentary at face value.

    Oh, please. Sometimes you make me wonder which one of us got a Humanities degree. I never said that Jake DeSantis and people like him will starve without their salaries. I said that wanting to be paid for your time and effort isn’t diametrically opposed to deriving other benefits from work.

    I suggest to you that it is absolutely frakking obvoius that one can both love his job and demand payment for his time simultaneously. Obvious to everyone, excepting you, if I take your commentary at face value.

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