In Defense of the AIG Bonuses

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," March 19, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Some people are saying, Forget about those bonuses. It's a drop in the bucket compared to the $170 billion you leant to AIG. But you know what, $165 million -- that's a lot of money.

We did some research and found some interesting numbers of what you can do or what can you get for $165 million at current market prices. So check this out. You could get more than 2,600 200 Cadillac Escalades. And to fill up that car, $165 million would get you more than 85 million gallons of gas. In that Cadillac, if you're hungry, with $165 million, you could buy more than 39 million McDonald's Happy Meals. In that car, you could drive a kid to college. And with $165 million, you could buy more than 20,000 state university tuitions. That's for in-state California students. And if you want a vacation in Denver, Colorado, where the president just signed the stimulus bill, you could get 402,000 round-trip tickets from Washington, D.C., to Denver.

What about our men and women in the armed forces? That money, $165 million, could buy our troops 300,000 flak jackets and 440,000 helmets. So to us, that $165 million -- it just doesn't seem like chump change.

As Congress fights to get back those $165 million from AIG executives, our next guest says, Let it go. Give it a rest. David Weidner of MarketWatch joins us in New York.

David, give it a rest? I mean, is that sort of the view? You mean let this one go?

DAVID WEIDNER, MARKETWATCH: I think I'm going to need a flak jacket first, before I go out and defend these bonuses. I'm not defending the bonuses, but what I -- what I do want to say is, you know, $165 million is probably going to be just the retainer that lawyers will get once we try to go in and try to claw back these bonuses that have already been paid out.

Look, nobody likes them. They're unseemly. They're distasteful. It's a terrible failure of the system. It's a terrible failure of government. It's a terrible failure of AIG. But I think what we're doing here is we're cutting off our nose to spite our face because you're going to go after these bonuses, you're creating a lot of disruption at AIG. And right now, AIG as a company is not -- it's not business as usual. This company is struggling. Its insurance business is struggling. They're trying to unwind, you know, billions in derivative contracts.

They need people, all hands on deck. They need to be focused. I don't care how terrible they are. They are the people in these jobs. And I think that we're risking billions and billions more by clogging up AIG and its management with fighting these bonuses and answering subpoenas. We know the bonuses are bad, but let's stop them from having bonuses next year.

Watch Greta's interview

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, here's the problem, David, is that (INAUDIBLE) this bonus is a great issue because it drives home the point to the United States Congress, to the House and the Senate, right over my shoulder, a block away up the Hill, that we as Americans are sick and tired of this. They don't bother to read the bills they watch -- that they write. They don't bother to read the bills that they vote on. They haven't bothered -- if they're going to bail out these companies with our money, they don't bother to have anyone to go through and see exactly what it is we're bailing out.

If nothing else, the uproar, the outrage by the American people is to put our foot on the throats of our members of Congress and say, Stop it! So if this is symbolically the one (ph), if it's going to cost us more in legal fees -- and frankly, we never got $165 million in legal fees in my practice of law, but whatever -- I understand the whole idea of cutting your loss, but you know what? On the other hand, send a message to Capitol Hill. We're just not going to do this. They're playing with our money. They're adding all these zeros on everything. We don't even know what we're getting. So actually, I think -- I understand your theory, but I think this is a good message.

WEIDNER: Well, I think it's just -- I think it's just risky. And you know, when you look at it at face value, you can be angry with the people who made the decisions -- and I think they're certainly deserving of the anger and the outrage that's out there. I think Wall Street has been rattled by this. I mean, I've talked to people who are -- who are really - - they weren't bothered by much, but now they're starting to get a little worried that things are really getting shaken up and...

VAN SUSTEREN: And you know what? Let me just -- let me just...


VAN SUSTEREN: Rattled? You talk about rattled. The people who can't make their mortgage payment at home tonight back in, you know, Ohio, Wisconsin -- rattled, the ones who can't make their car payments across the country -- I don't care about Wall Street. Most Americans don't, that these big companies are rattled by (INAUDIBLE) Just don't care. But I'll give you the last word. Got 30 seconds -- 20 seconds, and we got to go.

WEIDNER: Well, I would just say, you know, you have to remember that these companies are still not stabilized. And the reality is, is that people are going to -- people are going to flee and people are going to quit, and they're going to take their money and run. And it's just -- we're putting the system again at risk...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right...

WEIDNER: ... and we have a chance to...

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, David...

WEIDNER: Go ahead.

VAN SUSTEREN: David, I got to go. I got to go. Come on back. Thank you very much. Thank you, David.

WEIDNER: All right.

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