NU Online News Service, Jan. 21, 3:37 p.m. EST
NEW YORK--The chairman of Lloyd's, in a talk here last night, said that the insurance industry is capable of self reform and defended the former head of American International Group Maurice Greenberg.
Lord Peter Levene's remarks came as he was honored as the 2009 Insurance Leader of the Year by the St. John's University School of Risk Management at its 15th annual award dinner.
The award was presented in recognition of his global perspective and willingness to speak openly about industry issues and topics as well as recognizing the re-emergence of Lloyd's to a position of strength after difficult times and the example the marketplace provides to the wider financial services industry.
Lord Levene, describing the challenges facing insurers today, said, "I have spent much of last year reminding regulators and the media that insurance did not create this crisis, and that a one-size-fits-all approach to financial services regulation is neither relevant, nor fair."
He said the industry "Must demonstrate to regulators that we are capable of the highest levels of risk management. The story of Lloyd's should reassure governments and regulators that root and branch reform can come from within."
Lord Levene also defended Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, former chairman and chief executive officer of AIG, who he said is a friend. He said Mr. Greenberg "built the largest and most successful insurance business in the world. He was then forced out of that business."
He continued, "It is not for me to dwell on that this evening, other than to say that my personal view is that it was a huge mistake. Throughout that very sorry saga, Hank has maintained enormous dignity and has now been totally vindicated."
Lord Levene said that when he was informed of "this wonderful award and was asked whom from the insurance industry I would like to present it to me, I said to St. John's University that I would like Hank to present it--was that alright?"
He noted, "I was delighted, but not surprised, to receive the response: 'there is no one we would rather see as co-chairman of this event than Hank Greenberg.'"
Mr. Greenberg left his company in 2005 after the conglomerate came under scrutiny for accounting fraud and other questionable activity by the office of then New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. The company settled civil charges over its accounting with the Securities and Exchange Commission for $800 million.
The SEC last August agreed to a $15 million settlement with Mr. Greenberg who was alleged to have been liable as control person for AIG's accounting fraud and other violations of the securities laws and was guilty of improper accounting. Mr. Greenberg admitted no guilt in settling.
Last month Mr. Greenberg and his ex company agreed to settle lawsuits between them over who was responsible for the accounting debacle. Civil fraud charges against Mr. Greenberg brought by Mr. Spitzer's office are still pending.
Since his ouster from AIG Mr. Greenberg as chairman of C.V. Starr & Co. Inc. has presided over a major expansion of that company's activities.
Lord Levene also thanked Insurance Information Institute President Robert Hartwig and Joe Plumeri, chairman and CEO of Willis Group Holdings Limited, both who welcomed him into the insurance world, he said.
He also made a point of recognizing St. John's University. "If there is one lesson which we must learn from the recent economic turmoil, it is the critical importance of educating tomorrow's leaders in risk management," he said. "The funds raised tonight may well lead to a future Company president or CEO taking the right steps to avert a crisis in 20 or 30 years time.
Lord Levene became chairman of the Council of Lloyd's in 2002. He is the first chairman of Lloyd's Franchise Board, as well as the first Lloyd's chairman from outside the market.