AIG's moment of temporary insanity has passed. It's decided not to join a shareholder lawsuit filed by a company controlled by former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg against the US Government for bailing AIG out in 2008. Actually, Hank's company didn't allege that fact of the bailout was itself wrongful, just that the bailout terms set by the government were wrongful. Everyone understands that when you're going down like a torpedoed garbage scow, you always sue the guys who threw you a life preserver because they didn't reel you in quickly enough and you caught a nasty cold.
AIG's board of directors was apparently worried about reputational risk. Given the bad taste left in the collective mouth of the American public by the Wall Street bailouts, that's probably a justified worry. Politicians of all stripes were publicly uttering variations on the theme of "WTF?" on a daily basis. On the other hand, David Boies (yes, THAT David Boies), the attorney for Greenberg's company (which is the plaintiff in the litigation), thinks that the board's decision was not in the best interests of the shareholders. I assume that's a vague threat of a lawsuit against the directors of AIG. It seems to me that if Greenberg goes that route, he'll first have to win the lawsuit against the government in order to prevail against the directors. I'd think he'd have his hands full on with the suit against the government, without taking on the additional defendants. Then again, I don't swim in that specific shark tank, so I assume my rube-like perceptions and opinions are of little interest to the masters of the universe.
There were some other interesting, and even amusing, observations on AIG's board's decision. The Cato Institute's Mark Calabria astutely observed that big financial institutions rarely sue the federal government "because if they did, the government might not bail them out next time." Rim Shot!
On the other hand, AIG's CEO Robert Benmosche told CNCB that AIG believed that "a deal is a deal." Really, Bob? You danced with the bear and you still said that to a reporter without cracking yourself up? "A deal is a deal" as long as you're not the US government, which believes in honoring its deals unless it's politically expedient to renege on them, in which case it just litigates the resulting lawsuits for a decade or more until the public's interest in the outcome has been long since diverted to one or more other shiny baubles.
I understand the public relations downside as a reason to back off suing the US government. However, the "a deal's a deal" rationale simply doesn't hold water, based upon the nature of the devil with whom the deal was made.