AIG was arguably the most epic disaster of all the epic disasters of the financial crisis. Remember: The company was ultimately on the hook for a significant chunk of those horrid mortgage-backed securities.
After major help from the government, the insurance giant is just now getting back on its feet (and back on some analyst’s buy-rating lists) so NY Magazine’s Jessica Pressler has provided us with a timely profile of the firm’s bombastic CEO, Bob Benmosche.
If you don’t know much about Benmosche, he’s known for telling a room full of people, “Well that’s a bunch of bullsh*t,” and guiltlessly heading off to his vineyard in Croatia shortly after getting his job at the helm of AIG. None of this has done much for his reputation with government officials, but as he told Pressler, they should actually be thanking him and his company.
“But it (the AIG bailout) wasn’t a free lunch,” Benmosche insists. It’s a point of view that I am apparently not the first to fail to appreciate. “Everybody said it’s just not going to happen, they’ll never pay it off,” he goes on. “SIGTARP, Elizabeth Warren, Gretchen Whatshername in the New York Times. The fact is we now have succeeded in getting the Fed back all of their money, and we’re just close to getting the Treasury paid back. And do you know,” he adds, an indignant note creeping into his voice, “neither of them have ever said ‘Thank you’? We have done all the right things. Somebody should say, ‘By golly, those AIG people made a promise and they are living up to a promise!’ We’re left with a major part of the economy in America; they’re going to make a profit on top of everything else they’ve got,” he finishes, settling back into his chair. “God bless America. And God bless AIG. And God bless Tiny Tim.”
That’s one way to look at it.