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AIG Adjusts Bonus Total Again, To $454 Million

4876635 American International Group, which stoked populist outrage for distributing large retention bonuses funded by a federal bailout, has once again given taxpayers something to grumble about. As Politico first reported and CBS News has confirmed, the troubled company now says it paid employees $454 million dollars in bonuses in 2008 – an increase from the $120 million it claimed to have paid out in March.

A congressional aide tells CBS News' Jill Jackson that AIG gave the figure to Rep. Elijah Cummings on Friday.

As Politico points out, this represents the third figure offered by the company concerning its 2008 bonuses. First CEO Edward Liddy told the House Financial Services Subcommittee the bonuses were likely "in the range of $9 million." A few days later, spokesman Nick Ashooh offered the $120 million number. The new number, $454 million, is nearly quadruple that.

These bonus payments are separate from the $165 million in bonuses given out by the company to employees or former employees of the AIG Financial Products – whose work brought the company to Washington begging for a bailout.

Many of the employees who received portions of the $454 million in bonuses had nothing to do with the financial collapse of the company. The bonuses were given in much smaller amounts this time around, averaging between $5,000 and $50,000 across the entire company.

The new figure was offered in a document sent to Cummings on May 1, 2009. He told Politico said he was "shocked to see that the number has nearly quadrupled this time."

ADD: Cummings office says the letter was recieved by his office on May 4, 2009.

"I simply cannot fathom why this company continues to erode the trust of the public and the U.S. Congress, rather than being forthcoming about these issues from the start," he added.

Ashooh, the AIG spokesman, said that the $454 million dollar estimate came as a result of a change in the wording of questions posed to the company.

He argues that the $454 million "reflects all types of variable compensation across all of our businesses." The $120 million figure given in March, he said, represented only bonuses paid to high ranking officials and executives.

But Politico's Eamon Javers writes that in an email to AIG dated March 19th, the company was asked, "[w]hat was AIG's total bonus pool (outside the retention agreements) for 2008?" AIG replied with the $120 million dollar figure.

Asked weeks later by Cummings to "please specify the exact amount in bonuses – not retention payments or any other form of compensation – paid by AIG to employees of any division of AIG in 2008 or paid in 2009 for work performed in 2008," AIG sent a breakdown totaling $454 million.

"I think we've been pretty forthcoming," Ashooh told Politico. "AIG is not a simple organization. We're answering the question that we think we're being asked."