Tuesday, October 14, 2008

AIG Plans Another Lavish Resort Event

Last week, AIG (American International Group Inc.) got lots of bad publicity for hosting a $440,000 conference just weeks after getting bailed out by the federal government. Both the White House and Congress spoke out in displeasure, and both presidential candidates have also chastised AIG for the costly event. However, according to Bloomberg, they are already planning another.

“The event, at the Ritz-Carlton in California's Half Moon Bay, aims to ‘motivate and educate'’ about 150 independent agents who sell AIG coverage to high-end clients, said spokesman Nicholas Ashooh.

White House spokeswoman Dana Perino today called ‘despicable’ expenses from the first gathering, a weeklong conference last month at the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach. Those costs included $23,000 for spa services, according to Representative Henry Waxman, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

AIG considered buying advertisements to explain its position, only to be told by public relations consultant George Sard that it would be ‘a really bad idea.’

‘To spend the taxpayer's money on an expensive ad campaign to apologize for how you used taxpayer money leaves you open to further attacks,’ Sard wrote in an e-mail to Ashooh. Sard, chief executive officer of New York-based Sard Verbinnen & Co., said the message was a private e-mail mistakenly sent to Bloomberg and wasn't intended to be a public statement.

President George W. Bush didn't push for the bailout ‘to help top executives go to a spa,’ Perino said today at the daily White House briefing. Hours later, the Federal Reserve agreed to loan AIG an additional $37.8 billion on top of the initial $85 billion.

AIG Chief Executive Officer Edward Liddy, who replaced former CEO Robert Willumstad as a condition of the federal loan, today told Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson that the company intends to reevaluate expenses.

‘We understand that our company is now facing very different challenges,’ Liddy wrote in a letter to Paulson. ‘We owe our employees and the American public new standards and approaches.’

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