Hank Greenberg

There’s an alternative theory of the 2007-2008 financial crisis in which it was just a minor hiccup that would have worked out fine for all concerned if the meddling U.S. government hadn’t been so trigger-happy in bailing out basically sound but momentarily embarrassed financial institutions.1 I mean, you probably won’t actually run into anyone who believes this theory, because it is a pretty loony theory. And yet! It keeps coming up in court, which I guess means the courts are full of loonies, QED.

Obviously Hank Greenberg is the most vocal and delightful proponent of this theory, since he’s been suing the government for ever and ever for taking over AIG when AIG actually would have been just fine with a little eleven-digit low-interest loan from the government. But Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac shareholders have come on strong of late, with weird lobbying for re-privatization of their shares and, now, a lawsuit filed yesterday seeking $41 billion in damages over their bailout.

The theory here should be familiar if you’ve been following along with AIG; it goes something like this: Read more »

  • 08 Apr 2013 at 7:14 PM

Snowflake Greenberg’s Trust Fund At Risk

Insurer American International Group Inc has asked a court to block Maurice “Hank” Greenberg’s efforts to sue the U.S. government on AIG’s behalf, saying its former CEO has not proven he should have the right to do so. Earlier this year, AIG drew sharp criticism from members of Congress and an outraged public when the firm considered the possibility of joining Greenberg’s lawsuit, which challenges the terms of the insurer’s $182.3 billion bailout by the federal government in 2008. AIG said Greenberg had forced its hand in even deliberating the prospect, but that ultimately it did not want to sue anyway amid a public backlash. Absent AIG’s participation, Greenberg is pursuing a derivative claim, seeking to sue the U.S. government on AIG’s behalf over the terms of the $182.3 billion rescue. Greenberg and his company Starr International, which owned 12 percent of AIG before the rescue, are also suing the government directly.

Hank Greenberg: still at it! My lord. Remember when AIG was going to sue the government along with him, and everyone freaked out, and then it didn’t, and everyone was all “whew, glad that’s over”? Hahaha yeah. Not over.

Greenberg filed his amended complaint in his lawsuit against the government today, and in addition to sort of doubling down on his damages claim,1 he makes a whole lot of hay out of the fact that when he asked AIG to join his lawsuit, people made fun of him. Also I guess some other stuff:

The Government also threatened the AIG Board with the purpose and effect of intimidating AIG and its directors into acting to halt this litigation. The United States indicated it would wage a negative public relations campaign against AIG and its directors, terminate any cooperative relationship with AIG, and heavily scrutinize AIG’s SEC, tax, and other filings from the 2008 to 2010 period when Defendant controlled AIG.

Government officials mounted a campaign, including in the days immediately preceding the Board meeting to consider Plaintiff’s demand, to intimidate the AIG Board that condemned the AIG Board for even considering, much less accepting, the demand. …

As a result of the various factors that had compromised the independence and due care of the demand process, the AIG Board did not take the several weeks it had stated to this Court it would take to make a considered decision following the presentations to it on January 9, 2013, but rather rejected the demand the same day, less than three hours after those presentations ended. The AIG Board had in fact made its decision to reject Starr’s demand even before the presentations were made.

We talked about this when it happened, and I pointed out that this stuff matters.2 Greenberg is mostly – not entirely but mostly – suing on behalf of AIG. In particular, the extra $32 billion that he found in the lawsuit’s couch cushions this time around is entirely AIG’s claim: the shareholders never had that money; the company did. Read more »

  • 01 Mar 2013 at 5:04 PM

AIG Is Even More Not Owned By The Government

AIG is in the news today for two very small numbers in connection with much larger numbers. First: AIG is no longer bailed out! I know, you thought that happened like six months ago, and then again three months ago, but today AIG got rid of the last little bits of government ownership, really this time:

American International Group, Inc. (NYSE: AIG) announced today that it completed the repurchase of warrants issued to the United States Department of the Treasury (U.S. Treasury) in 2008 and 2009. … AIG and the U.S. Treasury agreed upon a repurchase price of approximately $25 million for the warrants. The U.S. Treasury does not have any residual interest in AIG after AIG’s repurchase of these warrants.

“With AIG repurchasing all outstanding warrants issued to the U.S. Treasury, we are turning the final page on America’s assistance to AIG,” said Robert H. Benmosche, AIG President and Chief Executive Officer. “We appreciate the opportunities this support allowed and are proud to have returned to America every cent plus a profit of $22.7 billion.”

Back in December, I speculated baselessly about why AIG didn’t just buy back these warrants in connection with Treasury’s final sale of stock back in December, since they were just rounding error on the $7.6bn offering. I figured waiting would let the government get a better deal, and it seems to have: I ballparked a value of $18,000,000.393 for those warrants in December, so Treasury made an extra $7mm by waiting three months.1 One possible explanation is that AIG and Treasury enjoyed the dynamic of announcing “AIG HAS PAID OFF ITS BAILOUT” every three months, so they milked it for all it was worth. I’m sure someone from Treasury left a pen or something at AIG’s offices, and its return will be announced with great fanfare in a few months.

But this is a distraction from more amazing, less pleasant AIG news: Read more »

The Greenberg of The AIG Story is a cross between Henry Ford, Henry Kissinger and James Bond. When some ski gondolas come loose on a Vermont mountain that he later turns into “one of America’s leading resorts”, he skis down “to warn others and prevent injuries.” When he flies to Vietnam after a hotel fire in Ho Chi Minh City “the victims and their families [are] moved by Greenberg’s presence”. He selects where to put the ashes of Cornelius Vander Starr, the founder of AIG, and builds an 18-hole golf course at his mentor’s country house “in response to requests from guests.” He is barred from AIG’s headquarters, and denied access to personal material including letters from his mother “and medical files for his dog, Snowball”. [FT]

Have you ever wanted to hold a mock trial of Hank Greenberg’s lawsuit over the AIG bailout from the comfort of your own home? If so, you’re in luck, because yesterday AIG filed with a federal court the complete AIG Mock Trial Deluxe Kit. It’s all here:

  • A written protocol for conducting the mock trial
  • Briefs, reply briefs, and sur-reply briefs from Hank Greenberg’s investment vehicle Starr International, the Treasury, and the New York Fed
  • A polite letter from the Department of Justice declining the invitation to attend1
  • PowerPoint presentations of both sides2
  • A transcript of highly respected lawyers arguing both sides

The mock trial was, of course, conducted by AIG’s board a few weeks ago as part of the board’s consideration of whether to join Greenberg’s lawsuit against the government claiming that AIG’s bailout was an unconstitutional taking of shareholder property. The board, unsurprisingly, went with no, and yesterday it filed the full mock trial kit with the court hearing Greenberg’s claims.

The transcript is a very good read; I will mostly pick out a few amusing points but that shouldn’t detract from the facts that (1) there is a legitimate serious interesting issue here, beyond the “ooh look at the ingrates” surface, and (2) both sides did a good job of arguing it. David Boies, Greenberg’s lawyer, has the harder case – that the government unconstitutionally took 80% of AIG’s equity by entering into a voluntary credit agreement approved by AIG’s board that included a grant of equity – but he does a good job with it, resting his argument largely on Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act (which permits the Fed to lend to non-banks but which does not on its face allow the Fed to, for instance, punitively demand lots of equity in excess of what it needs to compensate it for that lending) and on public statements by government officials to the effect of “AIG’s bailout was harsh because we wanted to make an example of them.” Read more »

I know it’s almost time to forget about former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg’s lawsuit against the government, since AIG yesterday decided not to join it, but I find myself unable to let go. Over the past couple of days of swirling outrage I’ve spent a lot of time with Greenberg’s complaint, and the Court of Federal Claims opinion refusing to dismiss it, and: the whole thing is so kooky and weird! And not crazy, either; probably wrong, but not nuts. How can we consign it to oblivion just because AIG refused to enrage everyone by backing the lawsuit? Fortunately Greenberg’s lawyer David Boies is running around keeping everyone enraged so I guess we have an excuse:

David Boies, the attorney suing the U.S. over American International Group Inc.’s bailout, said the firm’s takeover was an abuse of authority similar to firefighters seizing possessions they rescued from a flood.

“The fire and rescue people say we’re going to cart them out, we’re going to protect them, but we’re going to take 80 percent of them for the firehouse,” Boies said in an interview today on CNBC. “Everybody would know that was wrong. It’s also illegal.”

Hahaha enraging. But basically harmless enough. It’s the next thing he says that’s really weird: Read more »