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Commentary: Will innocents at AIG pay the price?

  • Story Highlights
  • There's another side to the AIG bonus story, Campbell Brown cautions
  • One AIG executive who's resigned has gone public, explaining his situation
  • Brown asks: Did AIG chairman leave some loyal employees twisting in the wind?
  • Threats of violence against AIG employees is insanity, Brown says

Editor's note: Campbell Brown anchors CNN's "Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull" at 8 p.m. ET Mondays through Fridays. She delivered this commentary during the "Cutting through the Bull" segment of Wednesday night's broadcast.

CNN's Campbell Brown says we need to consider not every person working at AIG is automatically bad.

CNN's Campbell Brown says we need to consider not every person working at AIG is automatically bad.

(CNN) -- Let's take a look at the other side of the witch hunt for executives who received bonuses from AIG.

For nearly two weeks, they have remained in the shadows, as everyone from the president to everyday people feeling ripped off have painted them as the villains. But now one of those who took the money is taking a stand.

Just when we thought the story was starting to fade, we are finally hearing from one of those who took his share of the $165 million dollar retention payments from the bailed-out financial giant.

He is not apologizing.

He is, however, quitting -- turning his letter of resignation into an op-ed piece in today's New York Times.

This is from Jake Desantis, an executive VP of AIG's financial products unit:

"I am proud of everything I have done. ... I was in no way involved in -- or responsible for -- the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung AIG. ... Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage."

He goes on: "After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company -- during which AIG reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 -- we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by AIG and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials.

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"I was asked to work for an annual salary of one dollar, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down."

Desantis goes on to say he will donate his bonus to charity or at least what's left of it if the Senate approves that whopping 90 percent tax hike the house slapped on the AIG bonuses last week.

So are people like Jake Desantis really victims? Video Watch Campbell Brown talk about the other side of the AIG story »

It is hard to feel sorry for someone who is getting $742,000 and may end up with the final say on where it goes, charity or otherwise, as taxpayers spend $170 billion to save your company.

Still it is worth asking: Did AIG Chairman Edward Liddy, who came in to clean up the mess, leave some loyal employees twisting in the wind by waiting until after the bonuses had been paid to ask for the money back?

Desantis says he and some of his colleagues gave up job offers at more stable companies after AIG repeatedly assured them the bonus agreement would be honored.

It was only in the hours before Liddy appeared before Congress last week that he made the request to return the bonuses. It is also worth asking whether Congress might have gone completely overboard. Sound off on AIG

Like Congressman Barney Frank demanding the names of all those taking the money, with no promises of keeping their identities confidential. New York's attorney general going even further, promising to name names.

Well today we learn from NBC's Connecticut affiliate about details of the threats against AIG employees.

One e-mail reads: "Get the bonus, we will get your children."

Another reads: "All the executives and their families should be executed with piano wire around their necks."


What is wrong with people?

I still think the bonuses were a mistake, but letting the hysteria reach a point where people may actually be in danger is insanity. And again, fanning the flames of this kind of hysteria is totally irresponsible.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Campbell Brown.

All About American International Group Inc.Edward LiddyU.S. Congress

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