A CEO apologized to the mom of a preemie baby for comments he made to employees regarding their retirement plans being cut. Tim Armstrong, the Chief Executive at AOL, said in a town hall meeting Thursday that the company was cutting benefits because of "distressed babies" that had cost too much money, among other things.
However, after he personally called Deanna Fei Sunday to apologize for the comments, she said she forgave him.
"He spoke to me as a person to another person and not in the public role as a CEO. He spoke to me in a heartfelt way, as a father of three kids to a fellow parent," she revealed on the "Today" show.
Armstrong's mentioning of the child was readily apparent to Deanna Fei and her husband, Peter S. Goodman, who works for the Huffington Post, an AOL company. Soon after the CEO's talk, they began getting phone calls and messages from co-workers and friends about what happened with their child's birth.
"Two things happened in 2012," Armstrong explained. "We had two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure those babies were OK in general. And those are things that add up into our benefits cost. So when we had to make the final decision about what benefits to cut because of the increased healthcare costs, we made the decision, and I made the decision, to basically change the 401(k) plan."
Employees were incensed at the cuts, but Fei was particularly offended, and wrote a scathing response to Armstrong's comments on Slate.com.
"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," Fei wrote. "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."
She went on to reveal how hard it was to have her daughter five months premature in October of 2012, and the struggle of knowing there was a significant chance the baby would die. Although her daughter is now fine after a year, Fei now says there is no taking back what was said.
"I understand we all sometimes say things we wish we could take back," the writer admitted. "I don't think Tim Armstrong meant to hurt our family."
Armstrong has since reversed his position and decided not to cut benefits.