Lawmakers steamed over ritzy AIG retreat after bailout - Fox29 WFLX TV, West Palm Beach, FL-news & weather

Lawmakers steamed over ritzy AIG retreat after bailout

Robert Willumstad, former CEO of AIG, testifies before the U.S. House in Washington on Tuesday. Robert Willumstad, former CEO of AIG, testifies before the U.S. House in Washington on Tuesday.
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Posted by Rachel Leigh email

WASHINGTON (AP) - Days after it got a federal bailout, American International Group Inc. spent $440,000 on a posh California retreat for its executives, complete with spa treatments, banquets and golf outings, according to lawmakers investigating the company's meltdown.

AIG sent its executives to the coastal St. Regis resort south of Los Angeles, California, even as the company tapped into an $85 billion loan from the government it needed to stave off bankruptcy.

The resort tab included $23,380 worth of spa treatments for AIG employees, according to invoices the resort turned over to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The retreat didn't include anyone from the financial products division that nearly drove AIG under, but lawmakers still were enraged over thousands of dollars spent on outing for executives of AIG's main U.S. life insurance subsidiary.

"Average Americans are suffering economically. They're losing their jobs, their homes and their health insurance," the committee's chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman, D-California, scolded the company during a lengthy opening statement at a hearing Tuesday.

"Yet less than one week after the taxpayers rescued AIG, company executives could be found wining and dining at one of the most exclusive resorts in the nation."

Former AIG CEO Robert Willumstad, who lost his job a day after the Federal Reserve put up the $85 billion on Sept. 16, said he was not familiar with the conference and would not have gone along with it.

"It seems very inappropriate," Willumstad said in response to questioning from Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland.

"Those executives should be fired," Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama said at a debate with Sen. John McCain on Tuesday, referring to the retreat participants. Obama also said AIG should give the Treasury $440,000 to cover the costs of the retreat.

But Eric Dinallo, superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department, said he could see the value of such a retreat under the circumstances.

"Having been at large global companies and knowing what condition AIG was in ... the absolute worst thing that could have happened" would have been for employees and underwriters in its life insurance subsidiary to flee the company.

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