Wednesday, March 25, 2009

AIG and the Mob

The poor, says the good book, we shall always have with us.

Lately, we are not so sure about the rich.

As information trickles down to the general public via news reports, the rich – which in Connecticut would be anyone in anyway associated with AIG, considered by many to have poisoned the public marketplace with toxic derivatives – are heading for the foxholes.

Over in Scotland, an anti-capitalist vigilante group calling itself Bank Bosses Are Criminals attacked the house and car of Sir Fred Goodwin, the former chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland.

“A storm of controversy has engulfed Sir Fred over the £16.9 million pension he negotiated as he was made to leave RBS for his part in bringing the bank to its knees,” the Times Online has reported.

One of the ringleaders of the vigilante mob later e-mailed a helpful note: “We are angry that rich people, like him, are paying themselves a huge amount of money, and living in luxury, while ordinary people are made unemployed, destitute and homeless. This is a crime. Bank bosses should be jailed. This is just the beginning.”

Here at home, employees of AIG in Fairfield County are considered dodging subpoenas issued by the state legislature and Connecticut’s omnipresent Attorney General Richard Blumenthal because some of the employees did not wish to share a fate similar to that of Sir Goodwin.

According to one report, more than a dozen AIG employees or former employees with Connecticut residences, all in Fairfield County, “were ordered to appear at a legislative hearing. A subpoena was also issued to AIG Chief Executive Edward M. Liddy.” Some of the other subpoenas did not have in them pertinent identification information because the job status of those subpoenaed was unknown at the time the subpoenas were issued.

Republican Leader Stewart McKinny offered a suggestion: “I would recommend that they drop the subpoenas on the individuals and get AIG up here to answer questions through one person.” Limiting testimony to one knowledgeable person who could help the committee craft legislation would insure that the committee would receive cleaner data, and it also would protect employees of AIG from unwanted repercussions of a kind that have incommoded Sir Fred.

McKinney strained the bonds of collegiality when he said that a less showy and more focused inquiry would be more purposeful.

McKinney fervently hoped his colleagues "will not have some sort of a show trial where 13 private citizens are hauled up to the Capitol and exposed. While I believe that the Capitol grounds will be very safe, these individuals will have their pictures all over the paper and will be subjected to even more danger."

In a story on the subpoenas issued by Blumenthal and legislative leaders, the Hartford Courant mentioned the names of three current AIG executives who had been subpoenaed because the names already had been cited in media reports. The paper added, “The Courant is not publishing a complete list out of concern for the safety of those whose names have not already been widely disseminated.”

After a great deal of palavering, it was decided to call but one person, the head of human resources for AIG’s financial products division to testify before the legislature, a compromise characterized by Blumenthal as "a first step and an initial stage in an ongoing investigation."

This is just the beginning.

Blumenthal earlier had speculated that in his considered opinion the names of those called to testify would have to be released under Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Commission law. He says he was told by AIG that the company would refuse to release the names of those who got bonuses because Connecticut’s FOI legislation was "too broad."

The company would be delinquent in its responsibility for the safety of its employees if it did not mention that, given the circumstances involved, appearing under subpoena was also dangerous. The signals that it is hunting season for AIG employees are everywhere, and in the past those who have had the temerity to get between Mr. Blumenthal and a television camera or a radio microphone always have run the risk of taking their lives in their hands.

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