There appears to be one sane person in the current rush to eviscerate AIG CEO Ed Liddy and its other executives; too bad he's only a journalist. The New York Times' Joe Nocera penned an obvious-in-retrospect column which reminded people that, in their haste to decry the company for its wasteful use of taxpayer money, they are the ones who are actively destroying any chance for an ROI.
Like it or not, AIG is our company now. And this end-less chastising of the $165 million in bonuses to AIG executives is devaluing the company that we need so badly to succeed. AIG is on the verge of becoming tainted beyond repair, and that would lead to all of our money going down a sinkhole. If I represented a corporation in need of AIG's services, I wouldn't want to do business with a partner whose shareholders are threatening decapitation of its executives, as some members of the public have done with AIG. Yes, it's true that the money pumped into AIG can turn into a sunk cost without our help. That doesn't mean we should expedite that possibility with our moral outrage.
I believe some of the loudest voices of anger are those who have little clue as to how the financial system works. Add in a dose of grandstanding elected officials (always attenuated to the whims of the braying mob), few likeable figures in the business community, and the amount of money pumped into AIG, and it's somewhat forgivable to see the world castigate the company and its executives on Twitter and in letters to the editor. Even if their anger is excusable, their financial literacy is suspect and their actions are counterproductive.
We are now confronted with the largest global word-of-mouth campaign in history. For AIG and the economy to recover and succeed, every citizen will need to understand that their individual actions and words tie into the larger fabric of the company's reputation. And it is up to the companies themselves to make this point. Liddy might have won some Congressional sympathy by prattling on about how distasteful the bonuses were, but he did the overall business community and his firm a huge disservice. Time and time again, the people who lead our economy say something terribly unhelpful.
Given the economy, the morning and evening news shows have increased their coverage of financial matters. But they too often focus on the narrow appeal of how a consumer can save a buck. That's not important if massive financial service entities are keeling over. The communications teams at major financial companies and governmental agencies need to get out there and tell the country that catharsis is ephemeral, but long-term recovery is about action, not simple storylines.