Saturday, March 14, 2009

AIG Thumbs It's Nose at the American Taypayer, Congress

Is this what the bailout means? Apparently, it's business as usual for big business. This time they are using the American taxpayer to line their pockets directly--with the help of Congress. Just call the government Uncle Sucker. What is President Obama going to do about this outrage? Will he allow them to get away with it? Once again it becomes perfectly clear that the two parties do not give a damn about America:

Despite being bailed out with more than $170 billion from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, the American International Group is preparing to pay about $100 million in bonuses to executives in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year.

An official in the Obama administration said Saturday that Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner had called A.I.G.’s government-appointed chairman, Edward M. Liddy, on Wednesday and asked that the company renegotiate the bonuses.

Administration officials said they had managed to reduce some of the bonuses but had allowed most of them to go forward after the company’s chief executive said A.I.G. was contractually obligated to pay them.

In a letter to Mr. Geithner, Mr. Liddy wrote: “Needless to say, in the current circumstances, I do not like these arrangements and find it distasteful and difficult to recommend to you that we must proceed with them.”

The bonuses will be paid to executives at American International Group’s Financial Products division, the unit that wrote trillions of dollars’ worth of credit-default swaps that protected investors from defaults on bond backed by subprime mortgages.

An A.I.G. spokeswoman said the company had no comment beyond the text of the letter.

In his letter to the Treasury, Mr. Liddy said A.I.G. hoped to reduce its retention bonuses for 2009 by 30 percent. He said the top 25 executives at the Financial Products division had also agreed to reduce their salary for the rest of 2009 to $1.

But Mr. Liddy defended the need to continue paying bonuses if A.I.G. was going to unwind the rest of its disastrous mortgage-related business at the lowest possible cost to taxpayers.

“We cannot attract and retain the best and the brightest talent to lead and staff the A.I.G. businesses — which are now being operated principally on behalf of American taxpayers — if employees believe their compensation is subject to continued arbitrary adjustment by the U.S. Treasury,” he wrote Mr. Geithner. The government owns nearly 80 percent of the company.

The bonuses were first reported by The Washington Post.

Of all the financial institutions that have been propped up by taxpayer dollars, none has received more money than A.I.G. and none has infuriated lawmakers more with practices that policy makers have called reckless.

Mr. Liddy, whom Federal Reserve and Treasury officials recruited after A.I.G. faltered last September and received its first round of bailout money, said the bonuses and “retention pay” had been agreed to in early 2008 and were for the most part legally required.

The company told the Treasury that there were two categories of bonus payments, with the first to be given to senior executives. The administration official said Mr. Geithner had told A.I.G. to revise them to protect taxpayer dollars and tie future payments to performance.

The second group of bonuses cover some 2008 retention payments from contracts entered into before government involvement in A.I.G. that the company says it is legally obligated to fulfill. The official said Treasury concluded that those contracts could not be broken.

Indeed, in his letter to Mr. Geithner, Mr. Liddy wrote that he had shown the details of the $450 million bonus pool to outside lawyers and been told that A.I.G. had no choice but to follow through with the payment schedule.

A.I.G. did cut other bonuses, he explained in the letter, but those were part of the compensation for people who dealt in other parts of the company and had no direct involvement with the derivatives.

Ever since it was to be bailed out by the government last fall, A.I.G. has been defending itself against accusations that it was richly compensating people who caused what might be the biggest financial crisis in American history.

A.I.G.’s main business is insurance, but it had a unit called A.I.G. Financial Products that sold hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of derivatives — the notorious credit-default swaps that nearly toppled the entire company last fall.

In his letter to the Treasury, Mr. Liddy said that A.I.G. was required to pay about $165 million in bonuses on or before March 15. The company had already paid $55 million in December, but the rest was about to come due.

The bonus plan covers 400 employees, and the bonuses range from as little as $1,000 to as much as $6.5 million. About seven executives at the financial products unit were entitled to receive more than $3 million in bonuses.

Ex-WWE Champ, Andrew Martin, Found Dead at 33

You can bet that it's steroids related. We need to do a better job of educating the public on how harmful steroids are to the human body. Martin was only 33 years old.

Authorities say former professional wrestler Andrew Martin, who was known as "Test" and "The Punisher" to fans, has died at his Tampa home. He was 33.

The former World Wrestling Entertainment champion was found dead at his apartment Friday night. Police say a neighbor reported that she could see into his apartment window and that Martin appeared motionless for several hours.

Police say there was no indication of foul play. A cause of death will be determined after an autopsy.

During his time with Stamford, Conn.-based World Wrestling Entertainment, Martin held the Intercontinental, European and Hardcore belts. He was also a tag-team champion.

Other wrestlers died under similar circumstances.
Steroids played a role in the deaths of several pro wrestlers since 1997, according to medical examiners, family members and the wrestlers themselves, including:

• Curt Hennig, 44, died of acute cocaine intoxication in February 2003, medical records show. But his father said last year that a lethal combination of steroids and painkillers contributed to his death.

•"The British Bulldog," Davey Boy Smith, 39,died in 2002 in Canada of an enlarged heart with evidence of microscopic scar tissue, possibly from steroid abuse, a coroner said. "Davey paid the price with steroid cocktails and human-growth hormones," says Bruce Hart, a veteran trainer who worked with Smith and was his brother-in-law.

•Louie "Spicolli" Mucciolo, 27, died from coronary disease in his San Pedro, Calif., home in 1998, according to his autopsy. Investigators found an empty vial of the male hormone testosterone, pain pills and an anxiety-reducing drug. The Los Angeles County coroner's office determined the drugs might have contributed to his heart condition.

•Richard "Ravishing Rick Rude" Rood, 40, died from an overdose of "mixed medications" in Alpharetta, Ga., in 1999, his autopsy shows. In 1994 he testified that he had used anabolic steroids to build muscle mass and relieve joint pain.

•"Flyin' "Brian Pillman, 35, was taking painkillers and human-growth hormones when he died from heart disease in 1997, his widow said several years ago. Investigators found empty bottles of painkillers near his body in a Minnesota hotel room.

We've already forgotten about Chris Benoit:
Steroids were among the prescription medications found by investigators going through pro-wrestler Chris Benoit's house, where he strangled his wife and young son last weekend before hanging himself.

Key to their probe is determining whether drugs played a role in the double murder-suicide, and whether so-called "roid rage" was at the root of the tragedy.

Chronic use of anabolic steroids — the kind commonly taken in excessively high doses by athletes including wrestlers — has been linked to marked aggression and anger, or what is referred to as "roid rage."

"Anabolic steroids affect neurochemicals in the brain," said Dr. Linn Goldberg, an expert in steroid use and the head of sports medicine at Oregon Health and Science University. It's those neurochemical changes that cause the extreme anger, he explained.

"They're not in great control to start with and then they use steroids and it heightens that," he said. "They have problems with impulse control."

[...]In addition to uncontrollable fury, other possible behavioral side effects of regularly taking large quantities of steroids include paranoia, delusions, depression and mania.

"They lead to psychotic episodes of aggression," said's managing health editor Dr. Manny Alvarez. "It's not inconceivable that this wrestler was indeed suffering from some of the psychological consequences of anabolic steroids, which might have led him to commit this heinous act."

And there is no doubt that steroids are an integral part of wrestling:
In November 2005, 38-year-old professional wrestler Eddie Guerrero died in a Minneapolis hotel room due to what a coroner later ruled as heart disease, complicated by an enlarged heart resulting from a history of anabolic steroid use.

In the aftermath of that tragedy, WWE chairman Vince McMahon announced a new drug policy, one that would give "no special consideration" to anyone and would involve frequent, random drug tests performed by an independent agency.

In the wake of this past weekend's murder/suicide case, in which steroids were found in the home of pro wrestler Chris Benoit, one has to wonder just how well the WWE's new policy is working.

If steroids are common in pro baseball and football, then the drugs are rampant in pro wrestling, which places an enormous emphasis on the size of its athletes. Former Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura admitted to using steroids when he was in the WWE and Hulk Hogan has admitted to taking steroids for 13 years. In 1993, McMahon was charged with conspiring to distribute steroids to his wrestlers, one of whom testified that McMahon had directed him to use steroids. McMahon was acquitted by a jury in U.S. District Court the following year.

Moreover, Bruno Sammartino refused to be inducted into the wrestling hall of fame in 2005 because he believed wrestlers were pumping themselves with steroids. More recently, a story by reporters revealed that former WWE champion Kurt Angle and other wrestlers allegedly received a wide variety of anabolic steroids supplied by Applied, the Mobile, Ala., compounding pharmacy that was raided last fall by investigators.