AIG plans to host meeting at Ritz
NEW YORK - American International Group castigated by the White House, Congress, and Barack Obama for hosting a $440,000 conference days after an $85 billion federal bailout, plans to hold another gathering for brokers next week.
The event, at the Ritz-Carlton in California's Half Moon Bay, aims to "motivate and educate" about 150 independent agents who sell AIG coverage to high-end clients, said spokesman Nicholas Ashooh.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino yesterday called "despicable" expenses from the first gathering, a weeklong conference last month at the St. Regis Resort in Monarch Beach. Those costs included $23,000 for spa services, according to Representative Henry Waxman, chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
AIG considered buying advertisements to explain its position, only to be told by public relations consultant George Sard that it would be "a really bad idea."
"To spend the taxpayer's money on an expensive ad campaign to apologize for how you used taxpayer money leaves you open to further attacks," Sard wrote in an e-mail to Ashooh. Sard, chief executive officer of New York-based Sard Verbinnen & Co., declined further comment.
President Bush didn't push for the bailout "to help top executives go to a spa," Perino said at the daily White House briefing. Hours later, the Federal Reserve agreed to loan AIG an additional $37.8 billion on top of the initial $85 billion.
AIG chief executive Edward Liddy, who replaced former CEO Robert Willumstad as a condition of the federal loan, told Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson yesterday that the company intends to reevaluate expenses. "We owe our employees and the American public new standards and approaches," he wrote in a letter to Paulson.