3 Trustees of A.I.G. Are Quiet, Perhaps to a Fault

By Edmund L. Andrews


In an early sign of just how tricky corporate governance has become in the era of taxpayer bailouts, three little-known trustees with no office, no staff and almost no mission will soon be deciding questions that affect the fate of American International Group, the giant insurance company. The trustees include a retired Wall Street executive, the head of a Texas pipeline company and the chairwoman of a firm in Bermuda that provides administrative services to hedge funds.  Even though the government has bailed out A.I.G. with $170 billion in federal money, and even though the Treasury owns nearly 80 percent of its shares, the voting power is in the hands of the three trustees.  Yet for all their responsibility, the trustees have studiously remained invisible to the public. Even after the nationwide uproar last month over bonus payments made to A.I.G. executives at a time when taxpayers were rescuing the company from collapse, the trustees have said nothing in public about their activities or their plans. Some analysts say the setup provides cover for officials who, despite the government’s large stake in various banks, want to preserve the notion that neither the Treasury nor the Fed “owns” A.I.G. or controls any major banks. “This was the best idea they could come up with at 4 in the morning on how to avoid the conflicts of government ownership,” said Karen Shaw Petrou, president of Federal Financial Analytics, a consulting firm in Washington.