Editor's Letter

Enough Already

The New York AG’s pursuit of Hank Greenberg has now gone well past the ridiculous.
By: | September 20, 2016 • 3 min read

In this era of rigid and sometimes rancorous political disagreement, it’s notable when members of opposing political parties publicly agree with one another.

It’s even more notable when those leaders both shouldered the responsibility of leading the State of New York, home to one of the most vital economic and cultural centers on the planet.

That’s precisely what former New York Governors George Pataki and Mario Cuomo did.

They penned a letter to the “Wall Street Journal” expressing their dismay that the Attorney General’s Office of the State of New York was still pursuing a civil case, using the powers granted by 1921’s Martin Act, against Hank Greenberg and another former AIG executive, Howard Smith, for reinsurance transactions that took place more than 15 years ago.

The case was initiated by former NY State Attorney General Eliott Spitzer and is being carried on by the current AG Eric Schneiderman.

The AG office’s aim, to “continue to seek, among other remedies, several forms of injunctive relief [against Greenberg] including but not limited to a ban on participation in the securities industry and a ban on serving as an officer of a public company,” struck both former governors as absurd.

“Mr. Greenberg has never worked in the securities industry and he hasn’t been an officer or director of a public company in eight years,” — Former Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, and former Gov. Mario Cuomo, a Democrat, in their letter in the “Wall Street Journal,” published May 12, 2013.

It is absurd. Hank Greenberg never worked in the securities industry. He has no intentions of working in the securities industry.

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“Mr. Greenberg has never worked in the securities industry and he hasn’t been an officer or director of a public company in eight years,” Pataki, a Republican, and Cuomo, a Democrat, wrote in their letter in the WSJ, published May 12, 2013.

Now here we are, more than three years past that date and Greenberg is still being harassed by the government.

Cuomo and Pataki also cited a 2007 study commissioned by then NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Sen. Charles Schumer that the “unpredictable nature of the legal system” in the U.S. is a major factor in undermining New York’s competitiveness as a financial center.

“New York’s ‘attractiveness to international companies’ is diminished by the ‘perception that penalties are arbitrary and unfair,’” the study, as cited by Pataki and Cuomo, concluded.

We concur.

In an opinion piece in the “Wall Street Journal” in June of this year, Thomas Donohue, the president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, referred to New York’s case against Hank Greenberg as a “vendetta.”

We can only ask for what?

Hank Greenberg is without question one of the greatest of the “Greatest Generation.”

He was among those that stormed the beaches of Normandy in 1944 when Allied Forces rose to wrest Europe from the grip of a murderous tyrant.

In his lifetime, he’s created, literally, tens of thousands of jobs. That’s a lot of taxes being paid to cover the salaries of a lot of politicians.

Hank Greenberg, chairman and CEO, the Starr Companies

Hank Greenberg, chairman and CEO,
Starr Cos.

In the four years alone before Spitzer brought enough pressure on AIG’s board to push Greenberg out, from 2000 to 2004, AIG grew from a company with $81.3 billion in identifiable assets to one of $131 billion in identifiable assets.

At an age when most men are either in the grave or on the golf course, Greenberg is pressing on, continuing to build as chairman and CEO of the Starr Cos.

Greenberg’s attorney, David Boies, is more than capable of defending him. What we are about here is decrying a waste of taxpayer money in a nakedly pointless pursuit.

Politicians don’t create jobs. Business leaders do.

It’s high time the politicians left this one alone.

Dan Reynolds is editor-in-chief of Risk & Insurance. He can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.

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That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.

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Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]