Lawmakers at U.S. Congress vowed on Tuesday to all but strip executives of the troubled American International Group (AIG) of their 165 million dollars in bonuses.
House and Senate Democrats were crafting separate bills to tax up to 100 percent of generous bonuses awarded by AIG and other companies rescued by taxpayer money, according to U.S. media reports.
Republicans said U.S. President Barack Obama's administration should have done more to stop the bonuses.
"Recipients of these bonuses will not be able to keep all of their money," declared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
"If you don't return it on your own we will do it for you," Chuck Schumer of New York said.
The financially strapped AIG, which has so far received more than 170 billion dollars in a federal rescue, was paying 165 million dollars of bonuses to its executives. In the fourth quarter of last year, the insurance giant lost 61.7 billion dollars, the largest corporate loss in history.
Obama pledged on Monday that his administration will stop AIG from paying the "substantial sums" of bonuses to its executives.
"How do they justify this outrage to the taxpayers who are keeping the company afloat," the president said, noting that the insurer is in financial straits because of "recklessness and greed."
Obama said he has asked Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to "pursue every legal avenue to block these bonuses and make the American taxpayers whole."
AIG would not be the only company to be named by either Democratic bill, but there was no question whose executives inspired the legislation.
However, the bonuses for AIG executives were paid legally, part of a program that had been disclosed in advance in filings that the insurer made with the government, the U.S. media reported. Sharp questions have been raised about what the administration knew about the bonuses, and when.
(Xinhua News Agency March 18, 2009)