Maurice R. Greenberg
chairman & ceo, american international group
Plaintiff Lawyers Called 'Terrorists'
BOSTON — The chairman of American International Group, the world's largest insurer by market value, Tuesday called lawyers opposed to tort reform "terrorists" and said class-action lawsuits are a "blight" on the United States.
AIG Chairman Maurice "Hank" Greenberg's remarks came a day after U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige sparked an uproar when he called the nation's largest teachers' union a "terrorist organization." The White House said he later apologized.
In remarks to business executives in Boston, Greenberg likened the battle over reforming class-action litigation to the White House's "war on terror." AIG insures corporations against multibillion-dollar claims of damages, such as in asbestos lawsuits.
"It's almost like fighting the war on terrorists," Greenberg told Boston College's Chief Executives' Club. "I call the plaintiff's bar terrorists."
That drew a swift rebuke from the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, which called Greenberg's remarks "an insult to the American people and the American Constitution."
The group, which includes 60,000 lawyers, represents on a pro bono basis 1,700 families who lost loved ones in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, said association President David Casey.
Greenberg used graphic language as he railed against an American tort system that sometimes awards staggering sums to people who claim injuries from corporate actions or products.
He accused plaintiffs lawyers of venue shopping in hopes of winning big awards from receptive juries or judges.
"You know you're going to get raped ... when you appear there," Greenberg said.
Portions of this text were extracted from a Reuters News Service
article which ran in newspapers around the United States on
February 25, 2004.