I don’t normally like the “blame game”. It is, many times, used to lay blame for negative outcomes on the lowest level of management possible, so that when heads roll they are insignificant. It is a process of scape-goating – finding the lowest person on the ladder of decision-making on which the corporate sins can be laden and then slap them on the behind and send them out into the wilderness of public scrutiny. When, however, there is a systematic strategy of avoiding responsibility, laying blame where it is due becomes the method by which healing can occur.
AIG is in the spotlight because of the excessive “retention” bonuses that have been paid out to key employees. In the whole scope of things those bonuses are like a drop in the bucket, except that they point to patterns of fiscal abuse and greed that permeate some businesses. These same patterns are likely to be present throughout the corporate environment. In the case of AIG, we need look back no further than 2005 when excessive bonuses were a major contention.
Attention has been paid to management and to the recipients of bonuses, but finally someone has “blown the whistle” on the real decision-makers and culprits in this debacle – the boards. It is the boards of companies that set the patterns of attitude and philosophies that enshroud corporate behavior and, in that case of AIG at least, they have been named in the blame-game. Nell Minow has laid blame where it belongs in her “Commentary: Boards are real culprits in AIG mess” on CNN. Does it solve the problem – no. But it does point to one of the major problems that crying out in need of a solution. Corporate boards arguably have more effect on the “common people” than governments, and it is time they were held to task for their decisions.