AIG 2008 bonuses spawned 73 millionaires – Cuomo

NEW YORK, (Reuters) – American International Group  Inc, which has received $180 billion in taxpayer money to stay  in business, created 73 millionaires with bonuses of $1 million  or more in 2008, New York’s top legal officer said yesterday.

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, releasing details  of a probe into payments at the insurer, said the top bonus  recipient was paid more than $6.4 million, and the top 10  received a total of $42 million.

“These payments were all made to individuals in the  subsidiary whose performance led to crushing losses and the  near failure of AIG,” Cuomo wrote in a letter to Barney Frank,  chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on  Financial Services,

“Thus, last week, AIG made more than 73 millionaires in the  unit which lost so much money that it brought the firm to its  knees, forcing a taxpayer bailout,” Cuomo wrote.

Cuomo offered the details to Frank before a committee  hearing in Washington on Wednesday. AIG did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Cuomo said in the letter, which he released to the media,  that his office had obtained the contracts under which AIG made  the payments. It said most bonuses were locked in at 2007  levels “despite obvious signs that 2008 performance would be  disastrous.”

Cuomo is investigating whether the bonuses were paid  fraudulently under New York law and has asked for the names and  amounts and details of contracts.

AIG has argued that its hands were tied contractually over  $165 million in bonuses it paid to AIG employees on Sunday.

Eleven employees who received retention bonuses of $1  million or more no longer work for AIG, Cuomo wrote. He said  AIG would not disclose the names of people who received  retention payments.

“My office will continue to seek an explanation for why  each one of these individuals was so crucial to keep aboard  that they were paid handsomely despite the unit’s disastrous  performance,” the letter said.

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