December 22, 2005

Elliot Spitzer: Sore Loser, Legal Tyrant (Yet Another Update)

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 11:31 am

This is bizarre–Mr. Spitzer is going back into ancient history to find something, anything against an opponent he has been unable to tag with anything recent and real (link requires subscription; bold is mine):

“New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer has decided against pursuing possible criminal charges against former American International Group Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Maurice R. “Hank” Greenberg in connection with the giant insurer’s accounting scandal, a person familiar with the matter said.”
– Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2005, the day after Thanksgiving

….. last week Mr. Spitzer finally revealed the details of this new accusation, and the appropriate word for it is indeed turkey. And cold turkey at that, since it involves a case going back to 1968.

The new accusations aren’t even formal charges at all, civil or criminal — which is not surprising given the statute of limitations problem. Instead, Mr. Spitzer alerted the media to his recent 26-page report advising a New York foundation to investigate whether Mr. Greenberg had defrauded that charity as part of an estate settlement that began merely 37 years ago. And by the way, these new accusations have nothing at all do with the original accounting allegations that Mr. Spitzer used to run Mr. Greenberg out of his CEO chair in March.

The details are there if you have a subscription and want to know more. It’s really scary that someone operating on the taxpayer’s dime can unilaterally throw resources at a (literally) dead carcass.

Speaking of “Scary”, the former Chairman of Goldman Sachs notes the following in another Journal piece today (requires subscription):

Last April, The Wall Street Journal published an op-ed piece by me titled “Mr. Spitzer Has Gone Too Far.” In it I expressed my belief that in America, everyone — including Hank Greenberg — is innocent until proven guilty. “Something has gone seriously awry,” I wrote, “when a state attorney general can go on television and charge one of America’s best CEOs and most generous philanthropists with fraud before any charges have been brought, before the possible defendant has even had a chance to know what he personally is alleged to have done, and while the investigation is still under way.”

Since there have been rumors in the media as to what happened next, I feel I must now set the record straight. After reading my op-ed piece, Mr. Spitzer tried to phone me. I was traveling in Texas but he reached me early in the afternoon. After asking me one or two questions about where I got my facts, he came right to the point. I was so shocked that I wrote it all down right away so I would be sure to remember it exactly as he said it. This is what he said:

“Mr. Whitehead, it’s now a war between us and you’ve fired the first shot. I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done. You will wish you had never written that letter.”

I tried to interrupt to say he was doing to me exactly what he’d been doing to others, but he wouldn’t be interrupted. He went on in the same vein for several more sentences and then abruptly hung up. I was astounded. No one had ever talked to me like that before. It was a little scary.

Spitzer’s “crusading for the little guy” act lost its legitimacy long ago. New York’s attorney general and gubernatorial wannabe is revealing himself as a petty tyrant of the first order. Does anyone else fear what Elliot Spitzer could or would do with the reins of power over one of our largest states?

I’m also eagerly anticipating, but won’t hold my breath waiting for, Spitzer buddy and defender-to-a-fault Jim Cramer’s comments on these latest developments.
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