AIG: Bonus Criticism "Just as Bad" as Lynchings

CEO AIGAIG's CEO has apologized for comparing criticism of employee bonuses to lynching.

In a Wall Street Journal article, Chief Executive Bob Benmosche was quoted as saying that anger about bonuses "was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitch forks and their hangman nooses, and all that -- sort of like what we did in the Deep South <decades ago>. And I think it was just as bad and just as wrong."

The criticism of bonuses began around 2009 during the financial meltdown when, in the midst of bailouts from the government, financial sector employees were collecting large bonuses. The banks' defense was that these employees were contractually due the bonuses, that the bonuses were essential to retain talent, and that only a few employees were responsible for bad decisions that caused the collapse. (I'm paraphrasing here.)

Reuters explains the lynchings in this way: "Thousands of people, mainly African-Americans and primarily in the South, were beaten, hanged and killed in the 19th and 20th centuries by racist mobs."

Do you see the analogy?

In a statement, Benmoshce later said, "It was a poor choice of words. I never meant to offend anyone by it."

Image source.

Discussion Starters:

  • Several news sources (Al Jazeera, Reuters, and others) called Benmoshe's statement an "apology." Is it? What does a apology typically include?
  • Read an article in Rolling Stone discussing the comment and other perceived failings of Wall Street. Analyze the author's arguments. How does he use logical arguments, emotional appeals, and credibility to make his points? Which are strongest and which are weakest?