The American International Group has agreed to cut employee bonuses by $20 million and will distribute about $100 million on Wednesday, according to people with knowledge of the negotiations.
But the reductions may not be enough to appease the company’s critics, who do not accept the company’s argument that it has to honor contracts established before its government bailout.
“A.I.G. has taxpayers over a barrel,” said Senator Charles E. Grassley, an Iowa Republican, in a statement on Tuesday night. “The Obama administration has been outmaneuvered. And the closed-door negotiations just add to the skepticism that the taxpayers will ever get the upper hand.”
A.I.G. first promised the retention bonuses to keep people working at its financial products unit, which traded in the derivatives that imploded in September 2008, leading to the biggest government bailout in history.
The contracts, which were established in December 2007, were intended to keep people from leaving the company and called for the bonuses to be paid in regular installments to more than 400 employees in the unit. The final payment, which was for about $198 million, was due in mid-March, but was accelerated to Wednesday as part of the agreement to reduce its size.
Fearing a firestorm like the one last spring, A.I.G. had been working with the Treasury’s special master for compensation, Kenneth R. Feinberg, on a compromise that would allow it to keep its promise in part, without offending taxpayers.
The agreement calls for employees who still work for the financial products unit to accept 10 percent cutbacks, while employees who have left the company must take 20 percent cuts. Those employees are still entitled to their bonuses under the contract, which adheres to the scheduled payments even if people have lost their jobs. The financial products unit has shed almost 200 people as it has wound down A.I.G.’s derivatives business.
A.I.G. has told all the affected people that if they do not accept the reduced amounts, they will get no bonus at all, according to a person with knowledge of the agreement.
But some people have not agreed to the cutbacks and are insisting on the entire amounts. People with knowledge of the negotiations said that a vast majority of those still employed at A.I.G. had accepted the cuts, but only about a third of the former employees had done so.
The holdouts seem determined to make A.I.G. pay the full contractual amounts, knowing they can make a reasonably good case under law, because A.I.G.’s own lawyers have previously issued an opinion that the contracts are binding. If they succeed, A.I.G. would have to pay them more money at some point in the future, and might even have to pay penalties for breaking its employment contracts.