SAN DIEGO – I'm watching the latest twist in the saga of deposed American International chief Hank (no relation) Greenberg unfold, and all I can think is: Can't everybody see what this guy and his pals are trying to do?
Under one siege too many by New York Attorney General (and governor wannabe) Eliot Spitzer, they're resorting to classic Crisis PR 101, which means they're trying to turn a struggling defense, or problem, into an aggressive offense, or opportunity. Heck, they're even planting "exclusive" interviews with favorite journalists. (I have no qualms with journalists being used for publicity purposes. I've been on the receiving end of that, and, hey, an exclusive is an exclusive.)
What's fascinating and at the same time troubling is that Greenberg & Co. are trying to use PR to sway the public into thinking the bad guy is Spitzer - not the other way around.
Oh, sure Greenberg built a successful company. Oh, sure, he's philanthropic.
But Spitzer isn't the one who presided over an accounting scandal at American International (AIG) that led to the restatement of nearly $4 billion (with a "b") of income over a five-year period. Spitzer isn't the one who was paid the windfall of all windfalls, as was another one of his targets: former New York Stock Exchange chief Dick Grasso. And Spitzer didn't concoct the schemes, prompting his probe of the insurance industry, to help public companies avoid posting losses.
His mistake was that he was doing his job, and doing it on Wall Street and in corporate New York, which are really more like big small towns. And like any small town, these are places where nobody dares asks too many questions or points too many fingers.
Which is just what Spitzer did.
Now, for doing what he was supposed to do, he is the one on the chopping block? Indeed it is. Yet another example of truth being stranger than fiction.