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

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.

“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]

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