The latest finger-pointing between American International Group and the rest of the financial world took a turn on Saturday, when AIG’s former chief executive, Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, drew a direct reference to Goldman Sachs’ role in the insurers’ ultimate downfall.
In an interview with Greenberg on Saturday, the Journal asked whether he thinks Goldman Sachs brought down American International Group.
"Well, it certainly wouldn't be difficult to come to that conclusion," Greenberg told the Journal.
Goldberg told the Wall Street Journal that it was his contention that at the dawn of the subprime meltdown, not enough attention was being paid to the role Goldman Sachs.
Goldman Sachs refuted Greenberg’s claims, who is reported to have based some of his accusations on articles in the New York Times, the Washington Post and other news outlets.
"Anyone, including Mr. Greenberg, who relies on news reports rather than facts to form an opinion, particularly of a complicated subject, has a very high probability of reaching the wrong conclusion," Lucas van Praag, a Goldman Sachs spokesman, told Reuters.
In now familiar news, AIG needed approximately $180 billion in taxpayer support after it nearly collapsed in September 2008. The U.S. government now owns nearly 80% of the company, once the world's largest insurer by market value.
Experts say the government’s involvement was the direct result of its view of AIG’s collapse as posing a global systemic risk.
After leaving the company in 2005 amid fraud allegations, Greenberg is now calling for a new look at the involvement investment banks, especially Goldman Sachs, had in developing the new policies on credit default swaps and housing-backed derivatives that allegedly caused AIG's downfall.
Greenberg went further, charging that Goldman Sachs sensed a downturn in the housing market, created subprime housing-backed derivatives, at the same time began shorting them, or betting they would fall in value, according to the Reuters report.
Greenberg called on investigative journalists, members of Congress and shareholder lawsuits to explore the policies that led the company he built up over four decades to implode.
"There is too much smoke, too many smart people asking questions that deserve an answer. I would hope that investigative reporters do the job they love to do and bring the truth out. I would hope that Congress would then say we must do something about this in all fairness," Greenberg told the Journal.
"The American people should know about this and then bring about the changes necessary to avoid the total destruction of a great company that was the pride of America in the insurance industry," Greenberg was quoted as saying.
Greenberg was not immediately available for comment, according to Reuters. AIG spokeswoman Christina Pretto declined to comment.
Goldman Sachs has become everybody’s favorite punching bag, reports Michael Corkery in a WSJ blog. “But Greenberg’s criticism of Goldman’s role in AIG’s collapse is only telling part of the story,” he said.