March 23rd, 2009
08:55 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Er, thanks, but no thanks on those bonuses

Cate Vojdik
AC360° Writer

Tonight we’re following breaking news on those outrage-inspiring bonuses paid to AIG executives. The payments have set off a national furor.

A short time ago, we got word that 15 out of 20 of AIG’s executives are giving the money back. In a conference call with reporters, New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo said that so far at least $50 million has been returned. Score one for average folks and the power of public opinion. We’ll have all the details for you by air time.

We’ll have to wait and see if the give-backs will quell the outrage that’s still overflowing. Over the weekend, some fuming community groups in Connecticut funneled their anger into action by organizing a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Infamous” tour. The bus took sightseers to the homes of two AIG executives. Randi Kaye went along with her camera crew. We’ll have her report tonight.

What do you think? Was the tour a cheap publicity stunt that crossed a line? Or do the AIG execs, despite being private citizens, deserve all the scrutiny they’re getting? For the record, both of the execs who were targeted by the tour bus had already agreed to give back their bonuses before the bus rolled up. Does that change how you feel about the tour? Tell us what you think.

We’ll also devote considerable time to the government’s plan to move toxic assets off bank balance sheets. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner today unveiled his long-awaited plan to free up banks’ overloaded books. It basically aims to lure private investors, including big hedge funds, to buy up the bad debt by offering billions in low-interest loans to finance the purchases. The government will share the risks if the assets fall further in price. Wall Street seemed to like the plan; the Dow surged nearly 500 points. But not everyone is convinced it will work. Ali Velshi will breakdown the plan for us tonight. We’ll also dig deeper on the raw politics.

Plus, we’ll take you inside Bernie Madoff’s house of cards. We’re learning all kinds of bizarre details about the King of Ponzi schemes. People who used to work at his firm are talking – and the stories they’re telling will turn your head.

We’ll also have the latest on the shootings this weekend in Oakland, California. Four police officers were gunned down by the same killer. Two were shot during a traffic stop and two were hit while pursuing the shooter. Three of the officers are dead, a fourth is on life support and reportedly brain-dead. The shooter, who had a violent criminal history, was wanted for a parole violation. Tonight, there are plenty of questions about why he was on the streets of Oakland instead of behind bars. Joe Johns will have more for us tonight.

See you at 10 p.m. eastern.

Filed under: Cate Vojdik • The Buzz
soundoff (21 Responses)
  1. Joanne Pacicca, Solvay, NY

    I consider myself a somewhat intelligent person; however, I really don't understand the economics of this bail out. First we have the example of a women in California who obtained 6 mortgages on three condos...she ran a day care center...doesn't see anything wrong with her lies on the her mortgage application, and now cries to the media that she's out of her home.

    We have a banking industry that used to check credit ratings, ask for verification of income and meet to determine if someone was mortgage worthy.

    And finally, the US taxpayer will buy loans made to deadbeats. That will free up credit and release Wall Street? Please someone, educate me.

    March 24, 2009 at 9:12 am |
  2. Larry

    What about the $$ that AIG gave to the Obama campaign; will Obama be giving that $$ back to AIG?

    March 24, 2009 at 7:57 am |
  3. Neo

    To answer the question: If the execs had already agreed to give the money back b4 the bus tour, then it wasn't fair to invade their privacy. I also hope everyone recognizes that the taxpayer is always in control. Good job!

    March 24, 2009 at 7:45 am |
  4. Sharon S

    You don't know these people personally and invading their personal lives it beyond disrespectful!!!

    Take up the problems with Your Government they are the reason this happened NOT AIG!

    AIG is simply the stupid Senators way of using someone else as their scapegoat!

    SO GROW UP!! I expected more from you starting with Respect!!

    March 24, 2009 at 6:40 am |
  5. Sharon S

    Ok I will be the one to say it! YES the bus tour crossed the line!!

    I think it was rude and I'm frankly sick of seeing African Americans portrayed as poor black people who can't get a break!

    This is insulting to me and them! I'm a white woman and I have had just as many if not up hill climbs as blacks! We all have the same opportunities in this country!

    And did anyone bother to mention that those executives at AIG most certainly all have Master degrees?????

    Well anyone can get one, YES ANYONE!!! it will cost you money, most of my friends paid for theirs on their own!
    So quit with the stupid poor black people thing, I'm very sick of it and don't you think this country has enough problems without CNN trying to yet divide by race even more????

    March 24, 2009 at 6:38 am |
  6. Larry Brown

    In the past six months Congress has created as much national debt as it took 232 years worth of Congressional overspending to create. (Please take a moment and that that fact really sink in. Six months compared to 232 years for an increase from $5.8 Trillion to over $11 Trillion.) Further, the CBO forecasts the debt will be over $23Trillion ($75,600 per person) by 2019. And yet your network spends an incredible amount of resources reporting AIG's $165 Million in bonuses and ignores this true financial crisis. Do you see the road America is traveling? Is the destructive destination not crystalized by this fact regarding the national debt? I trust you will place the proper priority on reporting this most crucial situation we're facing today.

    March 24, 2009 at 2:49 am |
  7. Georgia

    AIG execs should not receive bonuses. It has little to do with the Bail-out. Bonuses are an encentive for employees when a company does well, not when it fails miserably but gets a hand out. How have these executives made the company better and why do they deserve bonuses? How many people had to lose their job so they could still get a bonus? This question is for all companies that are laying off thousands of workers so they can still make upwards of six figure salaries and bonuses.

    Laying off hundreds of thousands of workers does not mean you deserve a bonus. Those bonuses could pay the meager salaries of most of those hurt by the economic collapse of America. And if the executives at AIG think we aren't taking names, that we'll forget as soon as Paris Hilton flashes her trash again, they'd be wrong. I am not the only one keeping track and am personally in discussion with my investment firm that if they can't make sure I never own stock in those companies taking advantage of the American people, I'll find someone who will. As americans, we should not support companies that don't support us.

    March 24, 2009 at 2:43 am |
  8. Chris

    Outrage at AIG- nope, just disgust. Next disgust that the housing bailout won't help the 47 million without health insurance, save anyone who has lost their job keep their home, make any money for those who are about to retire, feed children or pay for daycare so mom and/or dad can work at 3 jobs just to make the salary that one person used to make. Or like my family, we were downsized, moved cross country for one job at half the pay, had major illnesses with both our children, had two parents ill for 3 years and I hear people saying we need to spend less than we make. Give me a break, one move, one job loss, one illness we survivied. Two illnesses, aging and ill parents, we didn't.
    None of the bailouts help people like us. Bailing out business, usless.

    March 24, 2009 at 1:31 am |
  9. KIm

    How about those regulator's the banks deal with to process ? Delta neutral stategies on go ? A manager with Madoff made a million a year ? What were the qualifications ? Wear black and vacume up the people's money ? Change the vacume bag and it's all in a dumpster ! What a waste ! No one picked up on any weird vibs with him ? Psychogical disorder of something ? Mad...Off to jail !

    March 24, 2009 at 12:29 am |
  10. Kristi from KC

    In December, after just 3 months on the job, Merrill Lynch executive VP Peter Kraus quit with a $25 million parachute. A day earlier, his wife paid $36.6 million for a Park Avenue apartment.

    How can people NOT be outraged? it looks like a complete set-up. These investment billionaires are helping each other bilk all of us little folk out of our hard earned money more ways than we can count. What is it that they do exactly, that makes them deserve all that money? Do they work harder? Longer? Invent cures for cancer? Bill Gates was on Zaccharia's (sp?) GPS on Sunday and said that the average CEO, about 10 years ago, used to make 20 times what a teacher makes. Today they are making 200 times what a teacher makes. 200 Times. That is just vulgar. These people are replaceable – like everyone else – and I think someone should show them the door. If we don't get outraged now. when will we?

    March 23, 2009 at 11:53 pm |
  11. Louis

    First of all, it is time that the Executives realize that they are not the brightest when they put the company and people's lives in jeopardy due to the greed of the 1% of the richest group in America.
    They are not worth the money. They should only get paid about 20 times the average of the lower income salaries. They would then be more in tume with the reality of the situation instead of living in a bubble.
    Obama is on the right track and finally, you have a real human being who is able to talk and understand the needs of the average American. He wasn't treating the situation lightly when he laughed. He very well understands that medical care, education, and the need to green the economy are the way of the future. That is more than the other group did for 8 years. Why are the media so hard on him and let Bush and Cheney off with light questions so that they wouldn't be mad at them. It is obvious that the right wing media are part of the republican machine. There was little objectivity from the interviewer from 60 minutes. Obama has been only in for less than 90 days and he is being hit harder than all the 8 years of the Bush and Cheney team. It makes me wonder who really owns the media.

    March 23, 2009 at 11:39 pm |
  12. Dave Norris

    I had $2,500 of AIG stock that is now worth $52! And for doing this kind of disastrous money management, they are to recieve millions in bonus money?! They need to go to jail.

    March 23, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  13. Don Magnifico

    We are being fooled by what they are claiming are toxic assets, the real toxic assets are these corporations being rewarded by our federal reserve for failing in our capitalist government. Since when do Americans invest in bankrupt companies, for that matter why trust our money to bankrupt banks? I will like to make a profit, I always believed in a horse race the fastest horse to reach the finish line wins, why bet your money on the last games loser?

    March 23, 2009 at 11:28 pm |
  14. Kenneth Youngblood

    How are the taxpayers going to receive anything out of this bailout other than higher taxes? Why should we pay for everything from medical on children to bailing out the country? This is not the United States of Communist America.

    March 23, 2009 at 11:18 pm |
  15. Vanessa

    Ali Velshi
    CNN Chief Business Correspondent

    I have been listening to you for a couple of months now and I am surprised that your remedy for the economy has never been suggested that we boycot these companies who outsource jobs...well, I can understand you side-stepping because you need to remain vital so that you can keep YOUR job. Lord forbid the economy turns around...what would you have to report about.

    March 23, 2009 at 11:10 pm |
  16. vacdepman

    The Board of Directors of AIG should have been overseeing this "rogue" group that was responsible for this debacle. Where are they in the news? They got big money and should be sued!

    March 23, 2009 at 10:53 pm |
  17. Joan Foltz

    CNN's coverage of the bus tour fuels the populous mindset that could develop into long term social disruption, which would impede the turn around process. There was no purpose in CNN showing and naming the employees' homes. Also, the bus tour was started at ACORN's offices, which has an agenda to stir the class warfare while the union's Employee Free Choice Act is before Congress. Did the CNN reporter consider all the targeted employees, who made contributions? Did they consider the hidden agendas of those promoting the tour? Does CNN consider their role in focusing on the needless unrest and not on details of the policies or other activities that will have permanent impacts on our economy or social structure?

    March 23, 2009 at 10:46 pm |
  18. Mr. Anderson

    - no more Octomom!!! why do you give this freak ANY publicity???
    - we don't care about Obama's "Special Olympics" comment – move on.
    - nobody cares what Palin says, unless it concerns how her "family values" account for her under-age daughter getting knocked up and no husband in sight.

    March 23, 2009 at 10:46 pm |
  19. Andy

    Awful piece Anderson. Do you really want to encourage bus tours to peoples' homes, clearly putting them and their family in danger? How do you know tgese are the execs tgat created the mess? Presumably the perpetraters were fired long ago. You are demonizing the folks cleaning up this mess. Would you like ACORN on bus trip to your house or that of your famiky Anderson? I doubt it.

    March 23, 2009 at 10:32 pm |
  20. Sam - CA

    Sadly, the 4th died yesterday morning. According to local media, he was being kept alive by life support until a decision on organ donation could be made. Very sad situation out there in Oakland. The police department is in a very bad position. We heard today that they will delay the trial of the BART police officer because they will never be able to get an unbiased jury right now.

    March 23, 2009 at 9:54 pm |
  21. Annie Kate

    I really think it was a cheap shot to target some of the execs on that tour who had already given their bonuses back – if I had been one of them I would have been steamed. I'm not real comfortable with them going to any of their houses – with emotions as high as they have been running on this bonus mess things could have gotten out of hand easily – then we would be listening to charges of vigilantism. I'm mad about the bonus stuff too but I'm going to let the justice system take care of it .... or the Congress.

    I am looking forward to hearing more on the Madoff office and what did and didn't go on there. I read the post with the interview of one person who worked there – I'm sure there are lots more stories out there to fill in some more details. Its too bad Madoff himself won't talk.

    March 23, 2009 at 9:08 pm |