AIG and the American Taxpayers (A)
Explores the decision faced by AIG's board on whether to join shareholder and ex-CEO Maurice Greenberg's lawsuit against the U.S. government. The suit, argued by super-lawyer David Boies (of Bush v. Gore and California gay marriage fame), claims that in September 2008 the U.S. arbitrarily set aside the rights of AIG's shareholders - violating the Fifth Amendment by taking private property without just compensation - while preserving shareholder rights in other troubled financial institutions, including Goldman Sachs whose ex-CEO was then Treasury Secretary. The U.S. government moves to dismiss the case arguing that it has wide discretion in times of crisis, but a federal judge allows the suit to proceed. The case raises two issues central to understanding capitalism: (1) the importance of and limits to property rights; and (2) the role of the state in choosing between varieties of capitalism, here between oligarchic and entrepreneurial capitalism.