The human price of political and media stereotyping is highlighted today by publication of an angrily cogent resignation letter from an executive who played no part in AIG's problems but has been vilified, harassed and threatened for staying on and trying to fix them.
An executive vice president Jake DeSantis writes: "After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company--during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009--we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials. In response to this, I will now leave the company and donate my entire post-tax retention payment to those suffering from the global economic downturn. My intent is to keep none of the money myself.
"I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down."
With a senator suggesting suicide, two state Attorneys General hounding and threatening to name them and busloads of protesters howling in their driveways, AIG employees have become victims of the kind of group discrimination that Americans congratulated themselves for leaving behind with the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Such personalizing of a societal problem is the dark side of celebrity worship--a People magazine approach to the breakdown of government regulation that helped bring on today's economic mess, an updated version of "if the crops fail, find the witches who are responsible and burn them."
Now Treasury Secretary Geithner is proposing new controls. “One of the key lessons of the current crisis is that destabilizing dangers can come from financial institutions besides banks,” he said yesterday, “but our current regulatory system provides few ways to deal with these risks.”
At least one employee of those financial institutions will no longer be trying to undo the effects of those destabilizing dangers.
"I’ll continue over the short term to help make sure no balls are dropped," DeSantis tells his bosses, "but after what’s happened this past week I can’t remain much longer--there is too much bad blood."