Who gets blamed for the failure of AIG (AIG)? How far back does the responsibility go? One year? Five? Ten?
Is Sandy Weill to blame for Citigroup's (C) downfall? He created the company. Maybe it was so big that it could not be properly managed at the start. Maybe Sandy should be blamed. He also picked Chuck Prince to be CEO. What a disaster that was.
Hank Greenberg, the head of AIG for decades, says that he has no responsibility for the insurance company's awful fate. According to Reuters, "The former CEO has sought to distance himself from the problems leading to the stunning losses at AIG, which has led to as much as $180 billion in taxpayer funds being used to prop up the company."
It is a tricky issue, like determining who is to blame for the current U.S. financial crisis. Barack Obama is the president now, but was it George Bush's policies that pushed the nation into recession, or does it go back further to the budgets of the Clinton administration?
There is obviously no answer, but Greenberg's defense is thin. It is impossible to believe that he could have built AIG from a small insurance company into the largest one in the world (he was also one of the longest-serving CEOs of a major company in U.S. history) without leaving an imprint on the operation.
Maybe Greenberg feels guilty but can't face the fact that he lost all of those people all of that money.
Douglas A. McIntyre is an editor at 24/7 Wall St.