Frenkel Scuttles Away From AIG

In AIG’s last annual report, there’s a list of 31 "directors and executive officers of AIG" (it’s page 69 of the PDF, page 15 of the 10-K). On the list is vice-chairman Jacob Frenkel: we are told that he has "served as a director or officer" of the company since 2004.

Which makes this very mysterious:

When Gowing asked him about his culpability for AIG’s colossal wipeout, Frenkel initially avoided the question by saying there had been a systemic collapse in which AIG had been caught up. In a disbelieving voice, Gowing kept pressing him, finally leading to this exchange:

Gowing: So there’s no personal responsibility?

Frenkel: At least as far as I’m concerned, there isn’t.

Later, Frenkel explained that, despite his fancy title, he’s not actually on AIG’s board.

Well, Jacob, if you aren’t on the board, then you are a named executive officer — which would probably make you even more responsible for what transpired at AIG. (He didn’t say this, but I think he was basically hired to represent the firm at events like Davos.)

AIG put out a press release on Thursday announcing the promotion of Stasia Kelly (another name on the list of 31) from executive vice president to vice chairman. Kelly is clearly a non-ceremonial, hands-on executive; it seems peculiar that she should be given some meaningless title which is otherwise handed out to grandees who don’t do much except for schmooze clients and add gravitas where needed.

If Frenkel’s job was non-executive, he shouldn’t have been named as a high-ranking executive officer of the company. If his job was executive, he shouldn’t be backtracking in Davos and refusing to take any responsibility for what transpired.

Did AIG (i.e., the US government) pay for Frenkel’s trip to Davos this year, and for Frenkel, once he arrived there, to disavow any responsibility for the firm’s performance? I hope at the very least he flew commercial.

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