Let me explain

The anger is understandable, and I share it. I have been fortunate in more than three decades in business to see firsthand the wealth creation that well-managed American companies bring to their employees and their communities. I have seen the good side of capitalism. But over the past six months, since agreeing to take the reins of AIG and reviewing how it was run in prior years, I have also seen instances of the bad side of capitalism…

When I answered the call for help and joined AIG in September 2008, one thing quickly became apparent: The company’s overall structure is too complex, too unwieldy and too opaque for its component businesses to be well managed as one entity. So the strategy we continue to pursue, in close cooperation with the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury, is to isolate the value in the company’s component parts, capture that value to pay back money owed to the government, and allow AIG’s healthy insurance companies to continue to prosper for the benefit of policyholders and taxpayers…

To prevent undue risk exposure in the meantime, AIG has made a set of retention payments to employees based on a compensation system that prior management put in place. As has been reported, payments were made to employees in the Financial Products unit. Make no mistake, had I been chief executive at the time, I would never have approved the retention contracts that were put in place more than a year ago. It was distasteful to have to make these payments. But we concluded that the risks to the company, and therefore the financial system and the economy, were unacceptably high.