Distressed Baby Reverses Course

Tim Armstrong, CEO of AOL, who blamed “distressed babies” for his new 401K screwjob policy, finally reversed himself and apologized (for real) this weekend, but not before the mother of one of those babies, Deanna Fei, got a few licks in:

Let’s set aside the fact that Armstrong—who took home $12 million in pay in 2012—felt the need to announce a cut in employee benefits on the very day that he touted the best quarterly earnings in years. For me and my husband—who have been genuinely grateful for AOL’s benefits, which are actually quite generous—the hardest thing to bear has been the whiff of judgment in Armstrong’s statement, as if we selfishly gobbled up an obscenely large slice of the collective health care pie.

Yes, we had a preemie in intensive care. This was certainly not our intention. While he’s at it, why not call out the women who got cancer? The parents of kids with asthma? These rank among the nation’s most expensive medical conditions. Would anyone dare to single out these people for simply availing themselves of their health benefits?

Deanna’s daughter was born after she went into labor 5 months into her second pregnancy. Until that point, Mrs. Fei was perfectly healthy with no identified risk factors for premature labor. This is the personal pain that Tim Armstrong was so eager to turn into an excuse to goose his company’s profits:

Here is how we supposedly became a drain on AOL’s coffers. On Oct. 9, 2012, when I woke up in pain, my husband was at the airport about to board a flight for a work trip. I was home alone with our 1-year-old son and barely able to comprehend that I could be in labor. By the time I arrived at the hospital, my husband a few minutes behind, I was fully dilated and my baby’s heartbeat was slowing. Within 20 minutes, my daughter was delivered via emergency cesarean, resuscitated, and placed in the neonatal intensive care unit.

She weighed 1 pound, 9 ounces. Her skin was reddish-purple, bloody and bruised all over. One doctor, visibly shaken, described it as “gelatinous.” I couldn’t hold my daughter or nurse her or hear her cries, which were silenced by the ventilator. Without it, she couldn’t breathe.

That day, we were told that she had roughly a one-third chance of dying before we could bring her home. That she might not survive one month or one week or one day. She also had at least a one-third chance of being severely disabled, unable to ever lead an independent life.

As you probably remember from  Anne Laurie’s Friday post, Armstrong is the same asshole who fired an employee during last quarter’s conference call for the sin of taking his picture.






61 replies
  1. 1
    Tone In DC says:

    Please, PLEASE let this Armstrong fucker go Galt. Before Mrs. Fea or someone else does the world a helluva favor and beats him down. Severely.

    To the point where he needs intensive care.

  2. 2
    deep tex says:

    It’s amazing to me that AOL is still legitemate. What product do they offer that could be at all useful to the average American under the age of 70?

  3. 3
    wagon says:

    Fuck that guy Armstrong. He embodies everything that’s wrong with corporate culture. Employees aren’t people, just numbers keeping them from hitting the next quarterly earnings or getting some stupid bonus. Fuck him.

  4. 4
    doug r says:

    So what kinda benefits do they provide at that plantation they picked up Huffington Post?

  5. 5
    Citizen_X says:

    While he’s at it, why not call out the women who got cancer? The parents of kids with asthma? These rank among the nation’s most expensive medical conditions. Would anyone dare to single out these people for simply availing themselves of their health benefits?

    To quote an earlier Mr. Armstrong, if they’re going to die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.

  6. 6
    gene108 says:

    Why businesses do not grok that this is why we should’ve adopted single payer decades ago is beyond me. With single payer none of the medical costs of employees gets shifted onto the business.

  7. 7
    c u n d gulag says:

    What everyone before me said!!!!!
    X’s Infinity!

  8. 8
    EconWatcher says:

    @gene108:

    This particularly amazes me with the Big Three Automakers (sort of two now), who used to be described as health insurers that make cars on the side. They could have been vastly more competitive internationally with a single-payer health system. I can’t see any reason other than personal ideology why the leaders of these companies didn’t lobby for changes that plainly would have benefited their shareholders.

  9. 9
    Mobile RoonieRoo says:

    Does anyone know what other things AOL owns? I’m done with HuffPo now that I know they own it.

  10. 10
    Mobile RoonieRoo says:

    Does anyone know what other things AOL owns? I’m done with HuffPo now that I know they own it.

  11. 11
    Mobile RoonieRoo says:

    Fywp

  12. 12

    @gene108:
    Because that does not advance the ego of the executives. It doesn’t make them corporate sharks who eat what they kill, or whatever the current lingo is that they use to convince themselves that padding their time card with golf and overnight plane rides is hard work.

  13. 13
    Suffern ACE says:

    @Citizen_X: look, this company still has 2.5 million subscribers to its disk up service. I’m willing to wager that 1/3 of them died in the 1990s and their heirs haven’t figured out how to stop the service. If it weren’t for death, this company would have ceased to exist long ago.

  14. 14
    boatboy_srq says:

    @wagon: Considering the business model for AOL originally included “moderators” whose sole compensation was free service for the privilege of policing the AOLnets (i.e. folks who got access to a $15/mo network connection in exchange for near-full-time obligation to be online to help users and control trolls), Armstrong’s responses are sadly predictable. Nothing surprised me more than the AOL / TimeWarner merger, and to this day I have trouble comprehending an AOL with enough FTEs to provide benefits in the first place. Armstrong is probably POd that he has to give his people salaries in the first place.

  15. 15
    lurker dean says:

    i posted this last night in a mostly dead thread – la times cites to BJ and richard mayhew to debunk that a-hole armstrong’s assertions about the ACA causing a 7mil increase:

    http://www.latimes.com/busines.....z2ssxFepOf

    a shout out to BJ’s own mister mayhew, congrats.

  16. 16
    Botsplainer says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    Because that does not advance the ego of the executives. It doesn’t make them corporate sharks who eat what they kill, or whatever the current lingo is that they use to convince themselves that padding their time card with golf and overnight plane rides is hard work.

    Hey, writing that stuff down is hard work for an Alpha personality, bootstrapping Job Creator.

  17. 17
    MikeJ says:

    @boatboy_srq:

    in exchange for near-full-time obligation to be online to help users and control trolls

    Actually the obligation was nowhere near full time, it’s just that they were on full time. Remember before they went to flat rate there was an hourly charge to be online. Moderators spent tons of hours online mainly because they could. Think about how many hours per day people spend online now. Then imagine having to pay per hour for it. Moderators got a good deal.

  18. 18
    jonas says:

    @gene108: Businesses tend to like the status quo because health bennies are a form of employee compensation that isn’t taxed. If that were replaced by single payer, a lot of companies would be pressured to raise wages and compensation to reflect the fact that they were no longer paying for employee insurance and their taxes would go up.

  19. 19
    slippytoad says:

    @EconWatcher:

    I can’t see any reason other than personal ideology

    I don’t even give it personal ideology. It’s incredible stupidity, self-destructive, and short-sighted.

    The plain fact is our nation’s business leadership is suffering from a near-fatal lack of serious adults. Somehow, whining, spoiled-rotten toddlers like Tim Armstrong have been grafted to the gigantic teat of the corporate C-level, and nobody is in charge of them. This problem is slowly solving itself. We really should help, though, and push some of these dead, bloated institutions off the cliff, and down into the ashpile. AOL . . . I can’t even fathom what the fuck AOL does as a business but we haven’t needed them in a long time.

  20. 20

    @Botsplainer:
    And of course, fucking over employees is not only a power rush, it makes them feel like business geniuses who had the bravery and foresight to cut the waste and create a more efficient and productive company.

  21. 21
    PurpleGirl says:

    The toddler is an adorable little one. I wish her and her family better times ahead, including a long healthy life now.

  22. 22
    boatboy_srq says:

    @MikeJ: In those days, there were still real day jobs available, and the fee was a good reason NOT to be online full-time. I knew a couple of those moderators, one of whom did it for (what passed for) a living. As a hobby, where a handful or hours a week meant free access to AOL, it wasn’t bad; as a primary occupation, though, it sucked out loud with feathers.

    You’re confusing the infotainment value of being connected with the rewards (monetary and otherwise) of having a profession.

  23. 23
    hoodie says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: It actually undermines their egos, i.e., they lose a tax advantaged system that reinforces labor’s subservience to management. Besides being a prime example of corporate assholery, this case highlights how expensive a medical catastrophe can be and what a profound constraint job lock can be.

  24. 24
    Shakezula says:

    I also wonder what the fuck is going on at AOL that corporate gets that close a look at the medical services its employees (and dependents) are receiving.

  25. 25
    MikeJ says:

    @boatboy_srq: I never met anybody who did it as a primary occupation. The people who actually worked at AOL back then were pretty well paid in salary and very well paid in stock.

  26. 26
    boatboy_srq says:

    @MikeJ: The FTEs in the offices were taken very good care of, true: but their network depended on those moderators (the competition was all AYOR Websurfing) – and unless that was a hobby one was playing with in off-hours, then moderating was an ugly environment. Yet AOL managed to claim them as staff (at some levels) and inflate their headcount and deflate their earnings for taxation.

    I’ve known several moderators in my time. The hobbyists had a blast: the others (the ones doing it for something like real work) not so much.

  27. 27
    jonas says:

    @Shakezula: AOL self-insures, which means the company pays the medical bills, so yes, they actually see what their employees and doctors are billing them for.

  28. 28
    NonyNony says:

    @deep tex:

    It’s amazing to me that AOL is still legitemate. What product do they offer that could be at all useful to the average American under the age of 70?

    AOL owns Huffington Post. They also own/are an internet advertising company. Their only connection to the old dial-up days is that they still have a webmail service. They run a number of smaller websites too that you probably haven’t heard of.

    (I didn’t know this until recently – they run the “about.me” website. I know a lot of creative types who use that to keep pointers to their projects, and I didn’t realize it was an AOL owned gig.)

  29. 29
    MikeJ says:

    @boatboy_srq:

    and unless that was a hobby one was playing with in off-hours, then moderating was an ugly environment.

    But that’s exactly what it was. I never paid any moderators yet they all enjoyed doing it as far as I know. The ones who worked for me (in games) were the people who were spending tons of hours online anyway. They became experts and they were the best resource for n00bs.

  30. 30
    C.V. Danes says:

    And what kind of behavior would you expect from yet another of our sociopath CEOs?

    He’s a sociopath who is where he is because our corporate structures tend to promote sociopaths to lead them. Sociopaths say sociopathic stuff that the rest of us may find shockingly heartless. Not rocket science.

  31. 31
    Kay (not the front-pager) says:

    I just realized what Armstrong meant by ‘$7 million in Obamacare costs’. He’s talking about how much he paid to ALEC/some Koch bros. fund to fight the ACA.

  32. 32
    Lee says:

    My company did something similar but as bad.

    They reduced the maximum number of hours you can accrue by a third so their balance sheets look better.

    Yeah it sucks when they fuck the workers just to make their balance sheet look better

  33. 33
    gogol's wife says:

    @lurker dean:

    Cool! I think Mayhew’s posts are fantastic.

  34. 34
    Roger Moore says:

    @lurker dean:
    Hiltzik has been doing yeoman’s work defending PPACA from lies. It’s really too bad more media outlets don’t have people as dedicated as he is to getting out the truth.

  35. 35
    gelfling545 says:

    So, if not for the ACA would They have just said “screw it” and let those babies die? Really? How does the ACA alter the cost of the needed treatment to the insurers?

  36. 36
    RobertB says:

    @boatboy_srq: Compuserve, back in the pre-Internet days, actually paid moderators, based on a percentage of usage. Just like AOL back then, users got billed for clock-on-the-wall connection time, and the billing system knew down to the second how much time that users spent in any given forum. The word amongst us Compuserve minions was that the moderators of the busiest forums were making pretty decent money.

    In return, though, Compuserve took being a moderator pretty seriously. At the very least, a moderator was supposed to be knowledgeable in the field, and was also supposed to be in touch with others in the field as well. A good example was the Hollywood forum – Compuserve didn’t get one for a _long_ time, because they couldn’t find someone who knew Hollywood, knew at least _some_ folks in Hollywood, and actually was interested in being a forum moderator. You couldn’t just walk in and get a moderator tag.

  37. 37
    boatboy_srq says:

    @MikeJ: No, actually it wasn’t. And your moderators, I would point out, weren’t central to your business model: they were “the best resource for n00bs” – not a core part of the operation. AOL depended on them to make their product usable.

    There’s a difference between making your Internet resource more accessible through volunteers – and building a business model that can’t succeed without them.

  38. 38
    Citizen Alan says:

    @gelfling545:

    I’ve said for years that most corporations would flat-out murder children if there were enough profit to be made in it.

  39. 39
    lurker dean says:

    @Roger Moore: @Roger Moore: i can’t recall specific articles but over the past few months i’ve noticed that the la times seems to have a greater number of actual journalism pieces than other papers. i’ll have to keep hiltzik on my radar.

  40. 40
    Gene108 says:

    @Shakezula:

    When you self-insure you get information on the procedures / claims people receive and can make extrapolations from there.

    In May you find out a maternity claim for $599,900 was processed. Odds are it was a preemie / complicated delivery.

    You do not get the name of the person because of HIPPA or anything to ID the person.

    What gets me is why AOL does not have reinsurance for catastrophic claims. Seems like something any large employer, who self-insures should have.

  41. 41
    boatboy_srq says:

    @RobertB: I know AOL had similar guidelines for their moderators.

    What confuses me here, though, is why anyone would defend building a business model whose survival depends on essentially volunteer labor (not a “make it easier for the n00bs” model, but an actual “make the bottom line work” model). Non-profit? Sure. Charity? Fine. For-profit business? Really?

  42. 42
    NonyNony says:

    @Gene108:

    What gets me is why AOL does not have reinsurance for catastrophic claims. Seems like something any large employer, who self-insures should have.

    Two possible answers suggest themselves:

    * The management team is full of idiots who thought the reinsurance was a pointless expense because they didn’t understand it and so they ditched it, leading to higher costs.
    * Tim Armstrong is a lying sack of crap who wanted to put a change into place to screw his workers and say “because Obamacare”, and they actually do have reinsurance.

    I’d go for 2 myself. Especially because the change that he wanted to make was to do the entire employer contribution to the 401K at the end of the year in bulk, instead of in the monthly paycheck. This is a change you make because you want to make it harder for someone to quit or retire in the middle of the year while also screwing over your employees who don’t get the earnings on that money while you do. So it’s a company-wide paycut as well as a disincentive for folks to leave – win-win if you’re a CEO who’s retirement funds won’t be affected by it. (Also it’s stupid – it only makes people staying for that marginal benefit resent you and the job even more than they did when they presumably were thinking of jumping ship but decided that they couldn’t afford it. CEOs seem to have no understanding of human psychology. Probably because they’re all pathological in one way or another…).

  43. 43
    WaterGirl says:

    I very much hope that AOL and this creep at the top are not able to put the toothpaste back in the tube – that in this instance they have called attention to themselves in such a way as to put AOL and this creep in a very bad light, and I hope the stench sticks with them.

    They have been outed for what they are, and I hope memories are very long.

  44. 44
    WereBear says:

    @Suffern ACE: Wasn’t AOL one of those companies it was almost IMPOSSIBLE to cancel from? I think that was one of their “strategies” to throttle attrition.

  45. 45
    WaterGirl says:

    @WereBear: YES!

    I had forgotten all about that, but as soon as I read that, the rage came back.

  46. 46
    John says:

    Isn’t AOL at this point basically a scam that only makes money because it tricks old people into thinking they need to subscribe to AOL to have access to their AOL email accounts?

  47. 47
    C.V. Danes says:

    @Citizen Alan:

    I’ve said for years that most corporations would flat-out murder children if there were enough profit to be made in it.

    Actually, it is more cost effective to turn them into slaves.

  48. 48
    truthdogg says:

    I’m confused.

    Does this mean that Obamacare prevented an in-house death panel from operating? But isn’t it supposed to create death panels?

  49. 49
    WereBear says:

    @Citizen Alan: I’ve said for years that most corporations would flat-out murder children if there were enough profit to be made in it.

    Been done.

    See Nestle infant formula in the third world.

    And I still don’t buy their chocolate.

  50. 50
    Petorado says:

    Thanks to Mr. Armstrong for indelibly making the point that when healthcare is administered by one’s employer, you get idiots like Tim “birth panel” Armstrong dictating the terms of your health plan. This is another great example of why this nation needs the ACA so much.

  51. 51
    Roger Moore says:

    @truthdogg:
    I think it means, “Ook! Obamacare bad! Businessman good!” Any attempt to read into it more content than a typical high school pep rally is missing the point.

  52. 52
    Gravie says:

    Several of my friends started discussions on Facebook about Tim Armstrong and in every instance, there’s one “free market capitalist” — a different one for each friend — who launches a spirited defense of Armstrong. I’m pretty sure they’re not millionaire CEOs, but I guess they’d like to be.

  53. 53
    WereBear says:

    @Gravie: I’m pretty sure they’re not millionaire CEOs, but I guess they’d like to be.

    Republicanism in one nutshell.

  54. 54
    jrg says:

    The “pro life” movement should be all over this, yes?

  55. 55
    sparrow says:

    @jrg: Meh, no slutshaming opportunities, so I think they’ll pass.

  56. 56
    NonyNony says:

    @John:

    Isn’t AOL at this point basically a scam that only makes money because it tricks old people into thinking they need to subscribe to AOL to have access to their AOL email accounts?

    AOL owns Huffington Post. So while it is a scam, it isn’t quite the one you’re thinking of.

  57. 57
    Arclite says:

    This story got posted on a game site, and most of the gamers tore him a new one. If it’s getting traction outside the traditional political blogs, you know he fucked up in a major, major way.

  58. 58
    Wag says:

    As the father of now 8 year old boy/girl twins who were born 10 weeks early and who spent 8 and 10 weeks in the newborn ICU, I find his comments offensive and his apology inadequate. AOL is dead to me

  59. 59
    Mike G says:

    @Mobile RoonieRoo:

    I’m done with HuffPo now that I know they own it.

    But then where would I get my “12 Best Celebrity Sideboob Fails” and other essential journalism they offer?

  60. 60
    Walker says:

    @Mike G:

    Gawker or BuzzFeed, which have higher journalism standards.

  61. 61
    Julie says:

    @jonas: That *has* to be a HIPPA violation, right? Maybe not having the knowledge, but saying it publicly like that?

Comments are closed.