Former American International Group, Inc. chairman Maurice Greenberg has taken aim at his former company, calling its $4 billion earnings restatement “exaggerated and unnecessary” and created to justify his ouster.
In a 50-page document prepared by Mr. Greenberg’s lawyers, and presented to regulators yesterday, Mr. Greenberg laid much of the blame of the accounting discrepancies at the feet of other executives and the company’s auditor PricewaterhouseCoopers, New York.
Mr. Greenberg has been the target of both state and federal investigators for alleged accounting misdeeds that resulted in the insurance giant’s late May financial restatement that lowered net income by $4 billion.
In his attorneys’ verbal attack on the AIG accounting restatement Mr. Greenberg argued, “PricewaterhouseCoopers’ past performance warrants a close examination,” the so-called “white paper” stated, noting that no alarms were sounded by auditors after more than 50,000 person-hours were devoted to a review of the company’s internal controls that was completed shortly before Mr. Greenberg’s resignation in March from his top operating post at the company.
In addition, the paper notes the fact that five top executives, including chief financial officer Steven Bensinger, served with the auditing firm prior to their AIG service.
The restatement contained an additional reserving of $850 million for asbestos and environmental claims that Mr. Greenberg said was conducted without the usual lengthy and rigorous review that would normally accompany such a move.
All these moves had two goals – to justify Mr. Greenberg’s firing and make next year’s numbers look better with a lower jumping off point, the document argued.
“These changes to the Form 10K may be an attempt by new management to set the bar as low as possible on the investment community’s expectation of AIG earnings going forward,” the statement said.
As for the reinsurance transaction with the Berkshire Hathaway subsidiary General Re Corp that was questioned for the risk transfer it involved, Mr. Greenberg reiterated his previous claims that the Financial Accounting Standards Board has yet to establish firm standards as to what constitutes risk transfer.
In addition, it was argued that the Gen Re deal would not have required reporting under the new National Association of Insurance Commissioners guidelines enacted in the aftermath of the scandal.
Mr. Greenberg, according to his attorneys, has refused to testify when questioned about accounting irregularities by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and has invoked his right against self incrimination.
However, the first sentence of the white paper states: “Mr. Greenberg denies that he personally engaged in any fraudulent transaction.”