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26 March 2017

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Opinion: Hancock’s millions

Adam McNestrie 20 March 2017

Five million dollars. Regardless of how long the assignment lasts. With no performance criteria attached. In addition to his normal salary. And on top of other bonus payments - which it seems will still be forthcoming.

Not to mention a gross severance payment of $9,528,890.

Peter Hancock's tenure as CEO of AIG may have ended in ignominious failure and - reportedly - ouster.

But it has ended lucratively enough for the former JP Morgan executive.

AIG's lame duck CEO has managed to negotiate himself a $5mn "Transition Award" for continuing as head of the teetering insurance giant.

He has also struck a deal with the AIG board that will see him granted a 2017 long-term incentive award.

I would like to know what the AIG board believes it is incentivising Hancock to do over the long-term given that he will very shortly cease to work for the company, and how it intends to assess his success against these goals.

His short-term incentive plan will remain in place too, of course.

All of this represents millions of deadweight expense being taken on by a business that has forced through the most draconian cost-cutting programme in the sector, costing thousands of employees their livelihoods.

It is easy to become jaded on the subject of executive remuneration. You assume that there will be very big numbers involved when the companies are very big, and that it may be difficult to see a straight line between the performance of a company and the money that its CEO is paid.

Becoming exercised on the subject is a naive response, you tell yourself, idealistic.

And for the most part a shrug is probably the appropriate response.

But the more egregious examples should still draw our ire. Executives should not be paid for failure - and they definitely should not be paid twice over for failure.

If Hancock was not willing to stay on to cover a transition period without additional remuneration, one of the other directors could have taken up the position on an interim basis.

As much as anything else, it is difficult to see how - given everything that has happened - Hancock has the authority to truly run AIG.

And regardless of the practicalities of the situation, following the abject surprise of the fourth quarter results, AIG's board must work above all else to restore the trust of investors in the company.

Demonstrating that they intend to be careful and scrupulous custodians of shareholder money when it comes to executive remuneration would have been a first step in re-establishing that severely damaged faith.

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