The American International Group, Inc. (NYSE:AIG) is considering joining a lawsuit against the government, despite the company being saved by a bailout with tax payer funds in 2008.
The company is currently running a string of adverts nationwide with the tagline “Thank you America,” but behind the scenes the company is considering whether the government bailout during the financial crisis was unfair to shareholders.
The American International Group, Inc. (NYSE:AIG)’s board will meet this Wednesday to discuss whether to join a $25bn lawsuit against the government, according to court records. Although the lawsuit does not argue that the bailout was not what American International Group, Inc. (NYSE:AIG) needed, it contends that the nature of the rescue – the eventual taking of a 92 percent stake in the company, high interest rates, and billions funnelled to the insurer’s Wall Street clients – meant that shareholders were left out of pocket by tens of billions of dollars. The bailout also apparently violated the Fifth Amendment; which disallows the taking of private property for “public use, without just compensation.”
The lawsuit was filed in 2011 by Maurice R. Greenberg, AIG’s former CEO. He remains a major investor in the company, and filed the lawsuit on behalf of fellow shareholders. Since then, he has urged AIG to join the case – which may prompt the government to consider settlement talks.
The choice made on Wednesday will not be an easy one. The company’s board members, most of whom joined after the bailout, owe a duty to shareholders to consider taking the lawsuit up. If the board does not carefully consider the case, Greenberg could challenge any decision to abstain.
If Greenberg were to win a settlement without AIG’s help, then the company may face further lawsuits from other shareholders. However if American International Group, Inc. (NYSE:AIG) does join the lawsuit, then Greenberg is kept content and AIG would be in line for a payout in the event of a win.
However, the tax payers and government who funded the bailout may take less kindly to this.
“On the one hand, from a corporate governance perspective, it appears they’re being extra cautious and careful,” said Frank Partnoy; a former banker now turned professor of law and finance at the University of San Diego School of Law.
“On the other hand, it’s a slap in the face to the taxpayer and the government.”
American International Group, Inc. (NYSE:AIG)’s shares were down slightly today by 0.90 percent, to $35.60.