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Ex-CEO Greenberg: Don't blame me for AIG failure

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 28, 2013 at 10:56 am •  Published: February 28, 2013

Yeah. You tell me what happened when I was there that made it bad.

Q. But the company's Financial Products division, which wrote the credit-default swaps that forced AIG to be bailed out, was created while you were CEO.

It was there and made a profit every year. We made millions of dollars in AIG Financial Products.

Q. But it was fined by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2004, and that was when you were still in charge.

In the era that we were in (post-Enron), the board of directors were very sensitive and didn't want to put up a defense against anything. The lawyers who represented us in Washington said we would not have (had) a problem winning this case, OK? It had nothing to do with anything.

Q. A lot of your book focuses on the end of your tenure. You said you had board members who were taking up your time with "questions on matters beyond their competence."

After Enron, as I said, boards became more defensive. They were more interested in their own responsibility or liability than they were in the company.

Q. Don't you want people on your board asking you tough questions?

Listen, asking questions is not the issue. When you have boards telling management how to run the company, then you have a problem. You have to look at history. (AIG) did pretty well. Became the largest insurance company in history. It wasn't an accident. Why don't you focus on that? (It was when) the board became more intrusive and began to not worry about the results of the company but their own responsibility and liability that AIG got into trouble.

Q. Was the principle of too big to fail part of the reason for the financial crisis?

I think there are some companies that you can't afford to have fail. But it wasn't just the companies, it was the regulators. The New York Fed is responsible for overseeing the banking sector in their jurisdiction, including Citigroup. So what were they doing all the time that Citigroup was increasing its balance sheet with the wrong kind of assets? Did anybody talk about that? Why did the SEC let the investment banks like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley (get overleveraged)? Think that was a bright idea? Why were Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac told to load up, make as many mortgages as you can, we want more Americans to own their home. Whose responsibility is that?

Q. Tell me a little about your $25 billion lawsuit against the government. What's your sense on where it's going to go?

Well, if you're familiar with the Constitution of the United States, there's a takings clause. You can't take property without paying for it.

Q. A lot of people are critical of the lawsuit. Do you think they have any merit?

I don't care what people say. I think they unlawfully took almost 80 percent of the equity of the company.