Memo to AIG CEO Benmosche: Don't Shut Up

Last Updated Sep 3, 2009 7:12 PM EDT

A triad of Wall Street Journal reporters was needed to research and write a story about how American International Group board members were anonymously criticizing CEO Robert Benmosche for some of his comments.

Since he's only been in the job less than a month and has spent most of that time in Croatia, it's amazing that he could get in trouble so quickly. But then all of AIG CEOs have been the victim of drive-bys: Hank Greenberg, Martin Sullivan, Robert Willumstad, and, of course the most visible one, Ed Liddy, who was used as a piñata by Congress.

But Benmosche, former top dog at MetLife, is the first one who's pushing back. He reportedly told employees that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo should not be in office, and characterized federal officials as "crazies" that he was happy to let new Chairman Harvey Golub deal with.

Some might agree with Benmosche, particularly about Cuomo, who is trying to follow in the footsteps of Eliot Spitzer. Cuomo has the ego of the former attorney general who rose to be governor of New York. Let's hope he lacks the libido that cost the "luv guv" his job.

What AIG employees can't forget is how Cuomo painted a target on their backs during this year's bonus scandal, threatening to name names at a time when they were receiving death threats. Benmosche scored big with his staff when he criticized Cuomo and ditto for the feds, whom no one likes.

And Benmosche has the stockholders behind him. He is talking about keeping AIG going and not just selling off pieces in a fire sale, as Liddy did.

The share price alone is proof: while it has dropped somewhat, it is still more than three times higher than it was before Benmosche came on board in August.

So the new CEO has rallied the troops, improved morale, and lined up the stockholders - including the biggest stockholder of all - Hank Greenberg.

And he hasn't even warmed the chair yet. What a great PR campaign! And whatever you do: Don't shut up.

  • Ed Leefeldt

    Ed Leefeldt is an award-winning investigative and business journalist who has worked for Reuters, Bloomberg and Dow Jones, and contributed to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. He is also the author of The Woman Who Rode the Wind, a novel about early flight.