Robert Benmosche, American International Group (AIG) president and CEO, today apologized in person to a senior Maryland congressman for his remarks comparing the uproar over AIG Financial Products bonuses to the lynching of blacks during the civil rights battles of several decades ago.
“I was very pleased to meet with Rep. Elijah Cummings earlier today,” Benmosche said in a statement. “In our meeting, I apologized for my reference to the South and the impact that it had on him and others.”
He made the comment during a meeting with Cummings in his Washington congressional office, an AIG spokesman said.
Benmosche came under heavy fire from Cummings for his remarks during an interview with the Wall Street Journal that involved reminiscing over the AIG problems of five years ago and how the company has paid off the money borrowed from the federal government and is competing in the marketplace.
“I look forward to continued dialogue,” Benmosche said. He noted that “AIG repaid America every dollar plus a profit of $22.9 billion – a total of $205 billion – and every one of our employees is committed to making sure AIG stands for what’s right about this great country.”
During their meeting, Benmosche explained to Cummings that his comment was in response to a reporter’s question about certain actions he felt were wrong at the time of the financial crisis.
“What stood out to me was the enormous fear AIG employees felt about their safety and the safety of their families because people in positions of public responsibility were actively encouraging the vilification of our people,” Benmosche said.
Benmosche said that during his talk with Cummings he expressed his belief “that people should never encourage public anger against any group – for any reason – and that the vilification of a person or a group of people is not right.”
Benmosche added, “It’s never right, and when it happens it should not be trivialized or dismissed lightly, as it too often was in the context of AIG.”
Moreover, Benmosche said, “And when I referred to the South, I unintentionally trivialized a horrible legacy of our country. That was the opposite of my intent.”