NEW YORK — If the government wanted to recover millions of dollars in bonuses from American International Group Inc. employees, perhaps all it had to do was ask.
A week after the disclosure of their bonuses triggered a national uproar over Wall Street compensation, nine of the 10 people who received the biggest payouts, and 15 of the top 20, have agreed to return them, New York Atty. Gen. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday.
Altogether, about $50 million of the $165 million in bonuses awarded this month to U.S. employees of AIG is being repaid. Cuomo told reporters on a conference call that he hoped the figure would rise to $80 million.
"I would like to say this to the individuals who have given the money back: 'You have done the right thing,' " Cuomo said in a statement. "You have done what this country now needs and demands.' "
But he noted that only about $78 million, or less than half, of the bonus total went to American employees.
The revelation last week that AIG had paid out so-called retention bonuses to employees of the division that nearly sunk the company and required a series of massive government bailouts sparked a political firestorm and turned the employees into objects of national scorn.
More than 400 employees got bonuses, including 73 who received $1 million or more, Cuomo said.
AIG's chief executive, Edward Liddy, told Congress last week that he had asked employees to give back half the money.
But under mounting scrutiny and amid concerns for their safety, many appear willing to give it all back.
Cuomo won a legal ruling last week that entitles him to publicly identify the bonus recipients. But he held off revealing the names after Liddy said some employees had received threats.
The attorney general said Monday that he wouldn't release the names of people who returned their bonuses.
"If a person returns the money, I don't believe there's a public interest in releasing their name," he said.
Times wire services were used in compiling this report.