Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hank Greenberg's Take

While Timothy Geithner was being grilled on Capital Hill today, former AIG CEO Maurice "Hank" Greenberg was delivering a talk at the Union League Club. He made several important points.

He said the legal system needs to be fixed. A politically ambitious attorney general (i.e., Eliot Spitzer) should not be allowed to destroy companies and reputations in order to reach higher office. Greenberg said AIG has already spent approximately $700-800 million in legal fees. Greenberg has spent almost as much himself. He asked, "For what?"

He pointed out that government officials played favorites by forcing AIG to pay Goldman Sachs 100 cents on the dollar. He said it didn't pass the smell test when former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson fired AIG's then CEO Robert Willumstad and replaced him with Edward Liddy, who was on the board of directors at Goldman Sachs.

He said that when the government took an 80% stake in AIG, it should have immediately stated that the government's AAA credit rating also applied to AIG. However, government officials claimed they didn't have the authority to do such a thing. Greenberg found this explanation odd since the government did many things it did not previously have the authority to do. Yet it always managed to get the authority quickly whenever it wanted.

It turns out that Hank Greenberg is writing a book about all this. I can't wait to read it.