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Is Timothy Geithner an Idiot, or Just Lying Through His Teeth?

Elijah Cummings knew about $1 billion in bonuses for "months" ... why didn't Timothy Geithner?
 
 
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I chatted with Elijah Cummings briefly yesterday in the hallway at the AIG hearings. He had been the first member in the hearing room, and as others drifted in and out, he was there almost the entire time. I followed him out shortly after Kanjorski dropped the bomb about having known about the AIG bonuses over a month ago, and Liddy confirmed that Ben Bernanke both knew about the bonuses and had approved them. I asked him if Mr. Kanjorski had made him or members of the subcommittee aware of the bonuses at the time.

"I'm not on the subcommittee, I'm a guest today" he said.

I went back and sure enough, he's not on the subcommittee -- he's not even on the Financial Services committee. Cummings is House Oversight, and I assumed he must have a burning question to ask. As it turns out, he did:

The media has been focused on the $165 million installment of the $450 million retention program for AIG Financial Products Division. However, for months, you and I have been going back and forth overall about the one billion dollars retention program that covers thousands of employees throughout AIG.

Then, as Marcy notes this morning, he blows holes in Liddy's story that he was only given the "distasteful" task of paying out contracts he would never have approved.  From Liddy's Dec. 5 letter to Cummings:

On September 18, 2008 AIG's compensation committee of the Board of Directors approved retention payments for 168 employees.

Cummings says that he met with Liddy on January 15, and at that time Liddy admitted that under his tenure, he had expanded the retention bonus program to cover 2100 employees. Cummings asked how many retention bonuses Liddy had approved, and he estimated 4500 to 4700. However, that number didn't include bonuses agreed to by managers of other divisions. He asked how much money the company had paid in bonuses in 2008 and how much was scheduled to be paid out in 2009, and Liddy said he didn't know.

Let's underscore that -- Edward Liddy comes to a subcommittee hearing and answers questions by every single member of the subcommittee for hours, called expressly to answer questions about the AIG bonus program, and he's not prepared to answer a question about how much money they've paid out, or how much they will pay out. It is at the very end of the day when Cummings finally gets to ask his questions, and I admit I had to take off and interview Senator Merkley so I wasn't even there at the time, but as far as I could tell it was the first time that day that anybody had asked that question.

Jane Hamsher is the founder of FireDogLake. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect.