FAIRFIELD, Conn. — Pillars of the community are now pariahs fearing for their safety in a ritzy area of Connecticut home to many executives at American International Group Inc., hit with a backlash over bonuses it paid to top brass even as it accepted federal bailout money.
The payouts to executives appear to have helped put a face on the economic struggles the country faces, and the anger targeting AIG is palpable. Death threats have been pouring in, the company said, and its workers are taking no chances.
"People are very, very nervous for their security," one executive said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he feared retribution.
The financial products division is in Wilton in Fairfield County, and many of the company's leaders live in large homes on the "Gold Coast," an area known more for golf courses and sweeping views of Long Island Sound than for the police cars that now patrol the well-kept streets.
Corporate officials advised employees in a memo posted on Gawker.com to avoid wearing the company logo to keep from drawing attention. Workers were also urged to travel in pairs at night and park in well-lit areas.
And typifying the preoccupation with the AIG payouts, a busload of activists plans to drive by executives' houses Saturday in an attempt to deliver letters highlighting the strife of ordinary families in the recession and seeking solutions for economic recovery.
"However someone may feel about the appropriateness of the retention payments, there is nothing appropriate about the threats that people have made to and about employees," company spokesman Mark Herr said in a statement.