After Maurice “Hank” Greenberg got his win in court overAmerican International Group, I gave some thought to the whirlwindof events and the surprising speed with which the jury came backwith its verdict. They really only had to answer one question–whodo you trust? And yes, there is a double entendrehere.

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Did the jury trust Mr. Greenbergenough to tell the truth, or did they believe that a legal “trust”had been created between Starr International Company and AIG'sselect group of executives, whose hard work earned them membershipinto the SICO deferred compensation program?

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Mr. Greenberg came out on top of this one, and as objective as Iwas in my news coverage, I wasn't surprised. AIG never proved therewas a bona fide contract showing that the program was created byAIG for AIG.

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As incestuous as the management of the two companies obviouslywas–since the major leadership positions were occupied byindividuals of both companies (most notably Mr. Greenberg servingin the chief executive post at both SICO and AIG)–the commoncorporate functions stopped there.

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They were sister companies, both products of the sameparent–C.V. Starr Insurance Company–but their purposes, as laid outbrilliantly by Mr. Greenberg's attorney David Boies, were verydifferent.

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AIG is a public company designed to be an insurance provider(remember, it's the other stuff they got into–like credit defaultswaps on subprime mortgage-backed securities–that got them intotrouble).

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SICO is a private company whose foundation is AIG's stock. SICOmade enough money back to allow it to share the wealth with othersat AIG, and it did.

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Try as he might, AIG's attorney, Theodore Wells, never producedthe smoking gun showing SICO was obligated to continue fundingAIG's deferred compensation program (an incentive bonus programintended by Mr. Greenberg and others to keep AIG executives inplace because they lost their portion of shares if they left).

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Try as he might, Mr. Wells just didn't have a case, and itseemed like there were times when he lost the jury.

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The jurors sat through some excruciatingly boring testimony. Atone point, with the jury out of the room, the judge discussed withthe attorneys the inattentiveness of one juror who apparently fellasleep. However, they were treated to Mr. Greenberg more thanholding his own in a grueling week on the witness stand.

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Mr. Greenberg has a reputation for being a fierce manager,reportedly striking fear into any executive he would call. There isone story of him bringing a reporter to tears because he tore intoher for asking a question in a way he didn't like.

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That Hank Greenberg, however, was never on display in court, forthe most part. He was charming and easygoing with attorneys andstaff who accompanied him. He and Mr. Boies took lunch together inthe cafeteria, apparently never eating much.

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During a pause in the trial, probably while the court waited forthe jury to enter, I faintly overheard Mr. Greenberg discussingdiets with the court reporter.

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The only sign of impatience he exhibited was while he was on thewitness stand being hammered by Mr. Wells.

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His wife often appeared with him in court–a charming woman whois clearly attentive to her husband, making Hank a lucky manindeed. After the trial ended, she approached a reporter andcomplimented her on her matching choice of shawl and jacket.

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For all the criticism Mr. Greenberg may receive, snobbery doesnot seem to be one to be hung on him.

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We may not realize this, but one of the great equalizers is theMen's Room. A couple of times I ran into Mr. Greenberg, with Mr.Boies and Mr. Wells both there. Got a wink from Mr. Greenberg onone occasion and discussed the weather with Mr. Boies on another.Memorable stuff.

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One final thought about the trial. It must have contributed toat least one section of the economy–office suppliers.

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There was literally a small army of attorneys for bothsides–five or six at each trial table and another group occupyingseats in the public benches. Each attorney seemed to have access totwo monitors before them. One appeared to produce the courttranscript in real time, and the other for their personal use.

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But despite the advances in technology, this was a paper war.One wall in the court room was lined with boxes filled withdocuments, and in two small offices outside of the court one couldglimpse more boxes stacked up in neat rows.

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However, the unsung heroes are the clerks who had to sortthrough all that material and introduce it into evidence, whetherit was for display on an overhead projector, or pulling somethingout of storage. It is hard to know how they kept track, but theydeserve a real pat on the back for their work.

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Now, we wait for the final verdict from U.S. District CourtJudge Jed S. Rakoff–a man with a raspy voice, quick wit, white hairand beard who probably is asked to stand in for Santa Claus onoccasion.

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Despite that jovial exterior, he is a strict disciplinarian witha fast temper who does not suffer fools lightly in his courtroom.One does not want to get on his wrong side, and there were timeswhen AIG's attorneys almost seemed to cross that line.

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He will take the jury's decision on the breech of trust issueunder advisement, but if common folk so quickly walk away renderinga verdict in favor of SICO, won't that speak volumes to JudgeRakoff?

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Associate Editor Mark E. Ruquet may be reachedat [email protected].

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