Greenberg Fights Back; Ousted AIG Exec Defends Accounting and Challenges Current Management

Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, former chief executive officer of American International Group Inc., is battling back against charges he cooked AIG’s books, arguing that many of the accounting decisions for which he has come under fire were in fact made and agreed to by some of the same executives and accountants who now want to reverse them.

In a “white paper” filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and obtained by The Associated Press, Greenberg criticizes AIG’s recent restatement of earnings for the past five years. He said he “disagrees with many of the accounting changes made and believes that many of the changes are damaging to the interests of AIG and its stockholders,” reported AP.

The former CEO maintains that he followed proper accounting procedures during his nearly 40 years at the giant company, according to reports.

Greenberg’s attorneys submitted the “white paper” to the SEC in response to AIG’s 2004 annual report, which was filed late on May 31. At that time, the company also restated earnings back to 2000 and reduced shareholders’ equity by $2.26 billion, or 2.7 percent, to reflect adjustments to past accounting entries.

In his response filed with the SEC, Greenberg argues that he alone was not responsible for all of the past decisions and that the new management team and AIG’s auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers, were involved.

“Significantly, many of the AIG and PwC personnel who were involved in the restatement were the same personnel who made or participated in the initial accounting determination that they have now reversed,” AP reported the white paper as stating.

The paper further suggests that AIG’s current management and PwC changed their minds on the accounting in order to calm regulators, legitimize his ouster in March, and satisfy the ambitions of certain unnamed directors to take over AIG.

“AIG’s rush to concede wrongdoing may be explained in part by the current regulatory environment … but cannot be justified on that basis,” the white paper said.

“The rush to judgment may also be explained, in part, by the outside directors’ interest in legitimizing their removal of Mr. Greenberg … and by understanding the long-held ambitions of (at) least one or two such directors to take a leading role at AIG.” The directors were not identified.

AIG spokesman Chris Winans told AP that the company had not seen the white paper and would not comment but defended the restatement. “We stand by our (accounting) decisions as fully disclosed in our recently filed 10-K.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers also declined comment.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has filed a civil suit against AIG, Greenberg and AIG’s former chief financial officer, Howard I. Smith, in connection with various accounting practices and finite reinsurance deals. In his “white paper, Greenberg repeats his previous assertion that
AIG has refused to give him documents he needs to defend himself.