(Corrects reference to securities laws in paragraph 6)
NEW YORK - Fifteen of 20 American International Group leading bonus recipients have agreed to give them back in full, said New York's top legal officer who is probing $165 million in executive pay at the troubled company bailed out by the U.S. government.
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo told reporters on a conference call on Monday that he hopes to recoup $80 million of bonus payments made to Americans, or about half of the $165 million paid by the giant insurer on March 15.
An AIG spokeswoman said late Monday a handful of senior executives have resigned from its Financial Products unit, which Cuomo blamed last week for bringing the insurer to the brink of collapse. It was unclear if any of the executives with the top bonuses had resigned.
The spokeswoman declined to specify the number of resignations, noting they were manageable, and said there were indications that more will follow.
Cuomo, who has pressed AIG and other banks and companies over the hot button issue of bonuses, said that so far he calculated that $50 million had been paid back by employees of the AIG Financial Products unit.
A number of them (employees) have risen to the occasion and I applaud them, said Cuomo, whose office is investigating whether or not the bonuses were paid fraudulently under New York law. He said last week that contracts locked in most of the indviduals' bonuses at 2007 levels despite signs 2008 performance would be bleak.
Nine of the 10 executives who received top bonuses have agreed to return them, Cuomo said. He said about $80 million was paid to Americans, the rest outside of U.S. jurisdiction.
Cuomo has said he wanted to make public the names and details of bonus recipients, but he was assessing security and privacy of individuals following death threats against some employees.
Our legal theory is fraudulent conveyance, and we think it is a powerful legal theory, Cuomo told reporters. But if a person returns the money I don't it is in the public interest to name them.
He added that those people will see their name disappear from his list permanently.
AIG said in a statement that it was reviewing responses of other employees in the Financial Products division.
We are deeply gratified that a vast majority of FP's senior leadership have expressed a willingness to forsake their recent retention payments, the statement said.
(Reporting by Grant McCool and Lilla Zuill; editing by Richard Chang)