Credo Action

Criticizing corporate executives is NOTHING like the lynching of African Americans

Sign the petition

Tell the AIG board of directors:

"CEO Robert Benmosche's comments were astonishingly ignorant and wholly appalling. Justified public criticism of AIG granting $165 million in executive bonuses right after receiving the biggest bailout in U.S. history is NOT “just as bad” as lynchings in the Deep South. You must fire Benmosche and disavow his comments immediately."

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    Criticizing corporate executives is NOTHING like the lynching of African Americans

    In September of 2008, corporate insurance giant AIG became the largest private company in history bailed out by the U.S. government by accepting an $85 billion rescue package from the Federal Reserve.1

    And just six months later, AIG became a poster child for bad corporate behavior by spending $165 million on bonuses to the very executives who drove the company off a cliff.

    As if that weren't bad enough, it was just reported that AIG's CEO, Robert Benmosche, claimed that the anger over these executive bonuses is "just as bad and just as wrong" as white vigilante mobs lynching African Americans in the Deep South.

    Tell the AIG board of directors: Fire CEO Robert Benmosche and publicly disavow his remarks comparing anger over AIG executive bonuses to our nation's despicable history of lynching African Americans.

    In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Benmosche said that the uproar over bonuses "was intended to stir public anger, to get everybody out there with their pitchforks 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."2

    Rep. Elijah E. Cummings has already called for Benmosche's resignation, stating, "As the leading critic of AIG's lavish spending before and after its taxpayer-funded bailout — and as the son of sharecroppers who actually experienced lynchings in their communities — I find it unbelievably appalling that Mr. Benmosche equates the violent repression of the African American people with congressional efforts to prevent the waste of taxpayer dollars."3

    Rep. Cummings knows what he's talking about — he led the congressional investigation in 2008 into the financial excesses that led to AIG's near collapse.

    It is simply outrageous for the CEO of a bailed-out company to take verbal criticism about the irresponsible use of taxpayer dollars and equate it with the murderous violence meted out to African Americans in the South. We cannot let Benmosche's remarks stand. That's why we're joining Rep. Cummings in calling for Benmosche to be removed from his position as CEO of AIG.

    Tell the AIG board of directors: Fire CEO Robert Benmosche and publicly disavow his remarks comparing anger over AIG executive bonuses to our nation's despicable history of lynching African Americans.

    Benmosche responded to concern over his remarks by saying in a prepared statement, "It was a poor choice of words. I never meant to offend anyone by it." This statement falls far short of either apologizing for or even acknowledging the utter astonishment and incredible offense his remarks have caused.4

    It was completely appropriate for Americans to criticize the company that received the biggest government bailout in U.S. history when it turned around and gave millions of dollars just months later in bonuses to the executives who presided over its near collapse.

    It is beyond offensive for the CEO of AIG to compare that criticism to the white vigilante violence that terrorized African Americans during one of the darkest chapters in American history.

    Thank you for joining me in calling for the board of AIG to fire the CEO and disavow his astonishingly ignorant and wholly appalling remarks.

    1. "American International Group." Wikipedia, accessed on September 24, 2013.
    2. Leslie Scism, "AIG’s Benmosche and Miller on Villains, Turnarounds and Those Bonuses." Wall Street Journal, September 23, 2013.
    3. Leslie Scism, "AIG’s Benmosche Backs Off Inflammatory Comments." Wall Street Journal, September 24, 2013.
    4. ibid