Who would work for $500,000 these days?

February 19, 2009

Maurice "Hank" GreenbergWho would be willing to work for $500,000 a year? According to Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, nobody talented.

The former American International Group Inc chief executive believes that government steps to curb executive pay on Wall Street are a big mistake. The best managers and employees will move to private companies that are not receiving government money and therefore don’t face pay caps.

“You’re not going to get great talent for $500,000,” Greenberg said, referring to $500,000 pay caps that U.S. President Barack Obama placed on banks receiving new money from the Treasury’s Troubled Asset Relief Program.

If talent can’t be had for less than $500,000 a year, the United States is in trouble — our President makes just $400,000 a year.

But then again, given the mess that bank executives have gotten the system into, perhaps we could all do with a little less talent.
Image: Reuters stock photo

18 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

Hahaha, I’d work for $50,000 – what a joke, no wonder our economy’s tanking.

Posted by yeah right | Report as abusive

Was there a laugh track running the background when Hank was speaking?


We will find a bunch of honest and forward looking talented individuals willing to work and produce real good results for less than $500K/year(our President is indeed even cheaper than that). Just look at the results prduced by the sky high paid executives of the last decade. At that level, higher pay is no guarantee of better results, when greed replaces love for good work. After some good and real achievements the $ cap can be removed, provided a good trusted audit. The cap is a real good tool for quality and performance, not an bostacle.

Posted by Rob | Report as abusive

The arrogance that Mr. Greenberg displayed in his comment “You’re not going to get great talent for $500,000″ is symptomatic of the malaise on Wall Street.

It appears, according to Mr. Greenberg, that sound business judgement, clear and risk adverse thinking coupled with conservative investing are not characteristics that a $500,000 a year manager posses.

Trying to reconcile AIG’s historic “Flameout and Bailout with its former CEO’s comments will require talented managers with much smaller salaries and egos to match. You know, real people.


Is this guy for real…there is a lot of better than great talent out there that would work for less and do a better and more responsible job than any of the current CEO’s and exec’s. Make sure this bum remains a former anything. Why do you even allow commentary from this guy to be printed? And Dan, hear hear on your final comment.

Posted by Randolph G Price | Report as abusive

Corporate execs. should be hold accountable for the mess we are in!

Posted by Truth | Report as abusive

I retired in 1997.Before that my company handled transportation for major companies with headquarters or offices from New York to Virginia. What is always left out about the saleries that these people get is the hours that are worked. A lawyer doing corparate work puts in a 15-16 hours day,and that doesn’t include transportation time. Many other had the advantage of a shower in there offices,not for class but so they might grab a nap at their desk and go right to work. If you want to make the big bucks ,don’t think you are going to work a 35 hours week!


With an elite like monsieur Maurice who needs terrorists? And isn’t the material damage and economic terror that this financial elite has unleashed upon us all make them responsible in any way? why are they still free to terrorize the population and the world?

Posted by philip | Report as abusive

All this CEO no longer care about company, except their personal gain and greed. And when it comes to the question of talent, current economic situation is the good example. So all this nonsense logic Greenberg is giving for talent and productivity is completely countless. I would request him to come to his senses before this kind statement.

Posted by kalyan | Report as abusive

The USA is home to a system of capitalism.
The USA is also home to a system of universities, colleges, and other institutions of higher education that charge tuitions of over 100k for the standard 3-4 yr bachelor degree which is required internationally to enter any profession requiring critical thinking and a compensation/remuneration package that will provide a comfortable standard of living.

For a man to say “Who will work for $500k” is very correct and very valid. I support this statement.

If the universities did not demand so much money from future employees (university students) to teach them, waste 4 years of their lives before entering the working world, while taking in outdated inapplicable data, and joining a system of meaningless initiation of followers and defaulters into society, there would be no need for anyone to require $500K plus per annum to recoup their losses.

The Government has basically forced its citizens into this situation due to terrible market conditions, high costs of living, capitalist exploitation of the working class, and all other manners of events leading to the necessity to require a higher income for one’s own comfort of living. Inflation is set to soar in the years ahead, and the government has never made the decision to permanently lower taxes, ever in history.

Why then, should the employee, who pays taxes to the never ever content, always requiring more money and resources, taking back the same money they themselves print institution called government, settle for earning less when the odds are already stacked against him or her and the governmnent will not let up on what they ask for each year by the 15th of April?

I think that if your ambition is to earn more, and you are talented enough to acquire it in an honest way which provides services or meets demands that are sought after, go and do it. No man should have the right to stop you if those are your ambitions.

Everyone who is against the statement of “Who will work for $500k” is not only compromising their own situaions, but also limiting their own potential which is being your own worst enemy. If this is your choice, to earn less than $500K per year, then live it, and keep your own income low. But don’t try to impose that ideology upon others. This is what separates communism from capitalism. America needs to stop playing both sides of the fence.

Posted by Jordan V. | Report as abusive

Greenberg’s hubris and arrogance are beyond measure. If those making greater than $500,000 were so talented then why is AIG trading at fifty cents a share? Greenberg deserves to be in jail along with every other Harvard/MBA genius that got cushy jobs and destroyed a great company.

Posted by Reality Check | Report as abusive

Execs arent the only folks who work 15-16 hours per day. For a lot of farm folks and other working people that 15-16 hours is 7 days a week with no stock options, golden parachutes, and “conferences”. It is also done in cold, heat, dust, chemicals, and in physically demanding and dangerous conditions. Bottom line, everybody works hard and some harder than execs with much less compensation. No sympathy here.

Posted by Jack | Report as abusive

how much talent does it take to ruin a company, i would be very happy to have that position.

Posted by keith | Report as abusive

You can get all the talent you want for under $500k a year. In todays economy that talent can not get those mega dollars jobs. Mr. Greenberg needs to get real !

Posted by Bruce S. Mitizk | Report as abusive

I would do it for 50K and even less. I bet a good number of talented and ethical people would jump on this not only for the money but for the good of the country.

Posted by jason | Report as abusive

Jordan V., you are absolutly correct. well said.

Posted by James | Report as abusive

Are you seriously suggesting that you can hired a talented CEO for $500,000 to run a multi-billion company?

A CEO of a $20 million business earns about 500,000, and a $100M firm is substantially less complex/challenging than a multibillion company.

I think comparing the President’s salary is irrelevant. Obama would serve (key word “serve”) for $1/year. So would most. The intangible benefit and ability to influence the world by leading the World Superpower and leading a public corporation is completely different.

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive

James – Thanks
I think many people are becoming overly passionate about the salaries of those within specialist roles in the financial sector.

Yet, for decades we have not become passionate or have even lifted a single finger towards the institutions who charge us fees in excess of any salary cap to obtain the educational certifications to step foot into the professional world.

Never once have I read anyone outraged about the rising costs of an education, which should be declining and not rising due to the fact that it is a technology and information service, which is perpetually becoming outdated and replaced by enhanced information.
Yet everyone seems to be very upset at the salaries that these individuals receive once they enter the professional world.

I believe this system has been corrupted, but not at the leaf, at its roots and beginnings from the extortional costs of entering these professions at higher educational levels and also at the ever rising rates of taxes and ever falling services we receive in return for what we pay. The government is quick to point the finger at any and all, but as the rulers, rule makers, rule enforcers, and resource rationers of society, people need to have a second thought at which group is truly responsible for the root cause of this problem.

Then you can reconsider who should have their salary capped. The answer will reveal itself that no salary cap is necessary at all. The cap of costs of education, taxes, standards of living, and all other expenses needing to be recouped though a salary are the only things that must be capped.

Posted by Jordan V. | Report as abusive

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