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Analysts Ponder Fate Of Insurance Giant

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Researchers are speculating about what American International Group Inc., New York, might look like without Maurice Greenberg.[@@]

In reaction to reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times that Greenberg, AIG’s chairman, could be on his way out, Morgan Stanley Equity Research put out a bulletin today suggesting that Greenberg’s departure could lead to “prolonged weakness” in AIG’s stock.

AIG stock tumbled 2% on Friday to $64.71, after analysts began wondering whether regulatory scrutiny of AIG’s activities was the reason Greenberg bailed out of a Webcast involving Goldman Sachs Group Inc., New York, Thursday night.

AIG announced Thursday that the Goldman Sachs client meeting had been “postponed.” AIG gave no reason for the action.

AIG also said it was delaying a client session scheduled for today with J.P. Morgan Chase & Company, New York.

No future dates were listed for either the Goldman Sachs session or the J.P. Morgan session.

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the AIG board met Sunday to discuss Greenberg’s retirement, and The New York Times is reporting that Greenberg has retained criminal defense attorney Robert Morvillo.

UBS Investment Research in Reaction put out a note Friday saying that according to investor relations, lawyers had advised AIG against the meetings, and “we suspect this was due to the high probability of regulatory-related client questions–on which AIG would not comment.”

AIG activities are currently being examined by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Justice Department. The probes have involved AIG’s involvement in alleged brokerage steering and bid-rigging as well as the company’s involvement in transactions that investigators believe can be used to smooth out financial results.

An AIG company spokesperson, asked to respond to the UBS note, said he could not comment beyond the announcement of the postponement. A spokesperson for Goldman Sachs also declined to comment.

UBS wrote that it cautioned against reading anything into the postponement and said the company’s action could not be used to gauge the direction of “pending regulatory matters.”

UBS said it had requested a client conference call with Greenberg to discuss regulatory issues and was told, “it would be inappropriate to address regulatory issues with us.”

Greenberg in the past in conference calls with analysts has been outspoken in defending his company and minimizing any damage from the efforts of investigators.

AIG’s comments concerning regulatory matters have gotten the company into hot water in the past. In October 2004, AIG reported that the SEC had warned it was considering a lawsuit against AIG for putting out false and misleading press releases. One of the releases dealt with a notice stating that the U.S. Justice Department was making AIG the target of an investigation.


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