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AIG Didn't Get a 'Free Lunch': Benmosche

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The $182 billion bailout of AIG (AIG - Get Report) might still leave some taxpayers shaking in anger, but CEO Robert Benmosche would rather you just thanked him.

The insurance giant four years ago triggered financial Armageddon when it revealed that it was on hook for billions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities gone bad. The government engineered a massive bailout to prevent the economy from going into a tailspin.

The rescue was hugely unpopular, especially following news of $165 million bonuses to the financial products unit that unleashed the crisis. Then CEO Edward Liddy was dragged before Congress to justify the bonuses, where he argued that he needed to retain employees to fix the mess they had created.

But that was four years ago. In a riveting interview with New York Magazine, Benmosche reminds everyone that AIG has paid back the Federal Reserve and is close to returning money to the Treasury. AIG's bailout, he says, was no "free lunch".

"Everybody said it's just not going to happen, they'll never pay it off," he tells New York Magazine's Jessica Pressler . "SIGTARP, Elizabeth Warren, Gretchen Whatshername in the New York Times. The fact is we now have succeeded in getting the Fed back all of their money, and we're just close to getting the Treasury paid back. "

Benmosche then says that no one has thanked AIG for paying the government back like it said it would. "We have done all the right things. Somebody should say, 'By golly, those AIG people made a promise and they are living up to a promise!' We're left with a major part of the economy in America; they're going to make a profit on top of everything else they've got... God bless America. And God bless AIG. And God bless Tiny Tim."

Yes. He actually said that.

--Written by Shanthi Bharatwaj in New York

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Shanthi Bharatwaj.

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Disclosure: TheStreet's editorial policy prohibits staff editors and reporters from holding positions in any individual stocks.

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