As all parties try to find responsiblity for the current economic mess, we are bound to see a great deal of finger pointing – some in the right direction, some misguided.
TV financial host Jim Cramer went far off the deep end regarding AIG when he implored his viewers: “We should hound them in the supermarket, we should hound them in the ball park, we should hound them everywhere they are. We should make fun of them and we should point fingers at them and we should tell them that you have no shame.”
Rather rapidly, new AIG CEO Edward Libby responded on a Wall St. Journal blog.
“Those comments are outrageous. I demand they be retracted and that you apologize to AIG’s employees. It is one thing to criticize the executive leadership of AIG – that’s fair commentary. But it is way out of bounds to incite people to confront and harass other AIG employees – hard-working, dedicated people who are running good businesses and are committed to our success.
The employees of AIG did not cause this mess, but they are paying for it – in diminished 401K savings and in some job losses as we sell companies to repay the Federal loan. The irony is that AIG employees did not cause the problem, but they will solve it. For that they deserve our praise and our gratitude.”
While we do not know enough about what really happened at AIG, or what continues to occur as the firm rapidly draws on the Federal loans, Libby acted quickly and appropriately for his employees and shareholders.
Cramer makes his living by pushing the envelope and going for the outrageous. Like many others in the media space, there is a very strong temptation to say anything without thinking or fact checking. We encourage clients and citizens to utilize the current tools-whether it is a blog, web posting, posting on the site, or even appearing on the Cramer show-to counter what is not supported by facts.
If Cramer had just made his comments about AIG management, he might have been on safe ground. But verbally indicting all of the individuals in a company is not justified.