NU Associate Editor Mark E.Ruquet had a front-row seat for most of the trial pitting AIGversus its former CEO, Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, in a battle of thetitans over a deferred compensation program. The way Mark sees it,the quick jury verdict shows this case came down to a matter oftrust--as well as the lack of a "smoking gun" by the plaintiffs.Read on for his inside account and take on the trial.

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Mark Ruquet'sTake:

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After Maurice “Hank”Greenberg got his win in court over American International Group, Igave some thought to the whirlwind of events and the surprisingspeed with which the jury came back with its verdict.

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They really only had toanswer one question—who do you trust? And yes, there is a doubleentendre here.

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Did the jury trust Mr.Greenberg enough to tell the truth, or did they believe that alegal “trust” had been created between Starr International Companyand AIG's select group of executives, whose hard work earned themselect membership into the SICO deferred compensationprogram?

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Mr. Greenberg came out on topof this one, and as objective as I was in my news coverage, Iwasn't surprised. AIG never proved there was a bona fide contractshowing that the program was created by AIG for AIG.

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As incestuous as themanagement of the two companies obviously was--since the majorleadership positions were occupied by individuals of both companies(most notably Mr. Greenberg serving in the chief executive post atboth SICO and AIG)--the common corporate functions stoppedthere.

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They were sister companies,both products of the same parent—C.V. Starr Insurance Company--buttheir purposes, as laid out brilliantly by Mr. Greenberg's attorneyDavid Boies, were very different.

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AIG is a public companydesigned to be an insurance provider (remember, it's the otherstuff they got into—like credit default swaps on subprimemortgage-backed securities--that got them into trouble).

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SICO is a private companywhose foundation is AIG's stock. SICO made enough money back toallow it to share the wealth with others at AIG, and itdid.

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Try as he might, AIG'sattorney, Theodore Wells, never produced the smoking gun showingSICO was obligated to continue funding AIG's deferred compensationprogram (an incentive bonus program intended by Mr. Greenberg andothers to keep AIG executives in place because they lost theirportion of shares if they left).

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Try as he might, Mr. Wellsjust didn't have a case, and it seemed like there were times whenhe lost the jury.

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The jurors sat through someexcruciatingly boring testimony. At one point, with the jury out ofthe room, the judge discussed with the attorneys theinattentiveness of one juror who apparently fell asleep. However,they were treated to Mr. Greenberg more than holding his own in agrueling week on the witness stand.

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Mr. Greenberg has areputation for being a fierce manager, reportedly striking fearinto any executive he would call. There is one story of himbringing a reporter to tears because he tore into her for asking aquestion in a way he didn't like.

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That Hank Greenberg, however,was never on display in court, for the most part. He was charmingand easy going with attorneys and staff who accompanied him. He andMr. Boies took lunch together in the cafeteria, apparently nevereating much.

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During a pause in the trial,probably while the court waited for the jury to enter, I faintlyoverheard Mr. Greenberg discussing diets with the courtreporter.

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The only sign of impatiencehe exhibited was while he was on the witness stand being hammeredby Mr. Wells.

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His wife often appeared withhim in court--a charming woman who is clearly attentive to herhusband, making Hank a lucky man indeed. After the trial ended, sheapproached a reporter and complimented her on her matching choiceof shawl and jacket.

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For all the criticism Mr.Greenberg may receive, snobbery does not seem to be one to be hungon him.

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We may not realize this, butone of the great equalizers is the Men's Room. A couple of times Iran into Mr. Greenberg, with Mr. Boies and Mr. Wells both there.Got a wink from Mr. Greenberg on one occasion and discussed theweather with Mr. Boies on another. Memorable stuff.

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One final thought about thetrial. It must have contributed to at least one section of theeconomy—office suppliers.

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There was literally a smallarmy of attorneys for both sides--five or six at each trial tableand another group occupying seats in the public benches. Eachattorney seemed to have access to two monitors before them.One appeared toproduce the court transcript in real time, and the other for theirpersonal use.

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But despite the advances intechnology, this was a paper war. One wall in the court room waslined with boxes filled with documents, and in two small officesoutside of the court one could glimpse more boxes stacked up inneat rows.

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However, the unsung heroesare the clerks who had to sort through all that material andintroduce it into evidence, whether it was for display on anoverhead projector, or pulling something out of storage. It is hardto know how they kept track, but they deserve a real pat on theback for their work.

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Now, we wait for the finalverdict from U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff--a man with araspy voice, quick wit, white hair and beard who probably is askedto stand in for Santa Claus on occasion.

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Despite that jovial exterior,he is a strict disciplinarian with a fast temper who does notsuffer fools lightly in his courtroom. One does not want to get onhis wrong side, and there were times when AIG's attorney's almostseemed to cross that line.

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He will take the jury'sdecision on the breech of trust issue under advisement, but ifcommon folk so quickly walk away rendering a verdict in favor ofSICO, won't that speak volumes to Judge Rakoff?

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