An email from AIG

Behind The News
September 19, 2008 1:08:26 PM PDT
We had a technically tough show last night at 11.

I say that, not just to share it with you, but to use it as prelude to what happened when I got home and opened the mail. I was beat and hardly smiling. That would soon change when a piece of junk mail, which I'd normally toss in the recycling bin, caught my eye. The logo in the return address spot said "AIG."

Strange, I thought, that AIG would send a piece of unsolicited mail. I'm not a client, neither is my wife.

Inside is a greeting card-size mailing, with a beautiful color picture on the front of a gynormous house -- maybe in the Hamptons, maybe in Florida, I don't know -- with the caption: "Some Insurance Companies Respond to the Financial Consequences of a Disaster. We Help You Avoid Disaster Altogether."

My bone-tired bad mood suddenly disappeared. My mouth dropped, and then I started laughing out loud.

Let me get this right, I said to myself. The company -- American International Group -- is on the brink of financial disaster, it gets bailed out by taxpayers with an $85 billion loan because it made boneheaded investment decisions, and it sends out a solicitation letter asking us to trust them?

The letter pretty much proves the "boneheaded.... decisions" line, no?

I mean, did no one have any idea when that mailing went out that the company was in trouble?

Some of the lines in the mailing are just precious and priceless.

My favorite: "Our vast resources and expertise can help you avoid losses or reduce their severity when they can't be prevented."

Hey, congratulations everybody! The company doing that solicitation now belongs to us.

Which raises a fascinating question: Since it's our money that is now at stake at AIG, maybe I shouldn't throw away this piece of junk mail. Maybe I should become a customer of AIG. Maybe that would help the company, which we taxpayers now have an 80% stake in.

Something to think about.

Meanwhile, the stock market tried to rebound today - it was up for most of the day. And now the calls are getting louder for more regulation of the financial markets - this after eight years of slashing regulations.

Today, John McCain stepped in it when he said that, as President, he'd fire the Chairman of the S.E.C., Chris Cox, because of what's happened on Wall Street.

A couple of problems with that, however, at least for McCain. First, the President apparently doesn't have the authority to remove the SEC head. He appoints them - but then they're approved by Congress. Second, the Bush Administration likes Mr. Cox - and today the White House reiterated its support.

No one person is to blame for all this, of course. It's the accumulation of years of regulatory neglect. How bizarre that a government philosophy of hands-off business is now leading to huge government involvement in the private sector.

Speaking of the market - this note comes from some business experts, and although we don't prognosticate in this space, beware the market on Friday. September is historically the worst month of the year, in terms of stocks, and the third Friday of the month is historically the most volatile as well. It's the so-called quadruple witching day, having to do with investors' positions in futures and options contracts and the expiration timings of those items.

A word to the wise.

We'll have the latest on the markets and the upheaval, and the Presidential campaign, tonight at 11.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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