Put a Cataloger in Charge of Wall Street!
Over the past month, I downloaded a boatload of material on the current financial mess for my archive. One story haunted me--the surreal tale of AIG's Chief Executive Officer, Robert Willumstad, who thought he only needed $20 billion to get out of a hole.
Four days later--after a series of reports--he discovered the tab was really $80 billion.
How can a supposedly hands-on, competent CEO misplace $60 billion?
That's $60 billion with a B!
AIG Trip Insurance
A number of years ago, I got hooked on the Aubrey-Maturin novels of Patrick O'Brian. They're about the British navy during the Napoleonic era, and I read all 20 volumes, not to mention saw "Master and Commander" starring Russell Crowe multiple times.
Several weeks ago, I came across an ad in The New York Times Book Review describing a seven-night Mediterranean cruise with tours of ports featured in the O'Brian novels along with lectures about O'Brian and the Battle of Trafalgar. My wife, Peggy, and I talked about it, decided this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and sent a deposit and reservation. It's killer expensive, and the cruise people suggested that trip cancellation insurance would be a wise investment.
Our travel agent sent over several trip insurance brochures, one of which was Travel Guard. When Sentry launched Travel Guard back in the '70s, I wrote and designed that first brochure. I knew the benefits, liked the company, the price was right and I would've bought it.
In 1976, Travel Guard was bought by AIG, the huge insurer that came within a whisker of going belly-up and was bailed out on fears its bankruptcy would take down the world's financial system.
Right now, I wouldn't touch an AIG product with a pair of 10-foot tongs.
AIG and the $60 Billion Screwup
On Sept. 18 -- in a brilliant Wall Street Journal story by Monica Langley, Deborah Solomon and Matthew Karnitsching -- I saw how top management of AIG "lost" $60 billion in the course of a week.