October 22, 2009 / 6:03 PM / 10 years ago

AIG CEO says pay czar won't claw back pay: memo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - AIG Chief Executive Robert Benmosche has moved to assure employees that recently appointed U.S. pay czar Kenneth Feinberg will not attempt to claw back compensation.

The CEO of American International Group Inc Robert Benmosche speaks during an interview with Reuters in the garden of his Adriatic seafront villa in Dubrovnik, Croatia, August 26, 2009. REUTERS/Nikola Solic

“It is important that all of you know that the Special Master’s jurisdiction is quite limited, and we expect Feinberg’s upcoming decisions on compensation to cover only the top 25 employees at AIG,” Benmosche said in an internal memo distributed around the company late on Wednesday.

The memo, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, said the company was in “direct, near-daily discussions” with Feinberg, who has told AIG he will not seek retroactive salary adjustments.

The Obama administration appointed Feinberg in June to scrutinize the pay practices of the seven auto and financial companies that received the most federal aid.

Sources said on Wednesday that Feinberg was aiming to slash pay for each of those bailed-out companies’ top 25 earners by half, and seek other concessions to ensure that salary levels were kept in check.

Benmosche sent the memo to AIG employees within hours of the reports. The company employs about 116,000 people around the world.

In the months since its bailout, AIG has become a lightning rod for public anger as it agreed to stick to million-dollar bonus agreements for employees, including nearly $500 million for those working within AIG Financial Products, the unit at the center of its financial meltdown.

Benmosche, who became AIG’s chief executive officer this summer, has railed against criticism leveled at his employees and efforts to regulate pay. “You still need to pay people competitively,” he told Reuters in August.

Federal officials have approved AIG’s plan to pay Benmosche an annual salary of $3 million in cash and $4 million in fully vested stock. He also could receive a bonus valued as high as $3.5 million.

He has called his pay package “the bottom end of a competitive range.” His predecessor, Edward Liddy, agreed to work for $1 a year.

AIG declined to comment and did not answer questions about whether new regulations would affect Benmosche’s own pay.

Feinberg’s powers are limited to contracts signed since February.

AIG, once the world’s largest insurer, got a $180 billion bailout in September 2008. The assistance included more than $80 billion in taxpayer loans to shore up a cash shortage after bets AIG took on the U.S. residential market soured in value, leaving the insurer short of funds to meet collateral calls.

Reporting by Lilla Zuill; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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