Release the AIG Emails!

Take a minute, if you missed it already, to check out this editorial in the NYTimes by Eliot Spitzer, Frank Partnoy and Bill Black (three people who have investigated a fair amount of financial fraud) where they call for an open source investigation of what went wrong at AIG:

we know where the answers are. They are in the trove of e-mail messages still backed up on A.I.G. servers, as well as in the key internal accounting documents and financial models generated by A.I.G. during the past decade. Before releasing its regulatory clutches, the government should insist that the company immediately make these materials public. By putting the evidence online, the government could establish a new form of “open source” investigation.

Once the documents are available for everyone to inspect, a thousand journalistic flowers can bloom, as reporters, victims and angry citizens have a chance to piece together the story. In past cases of financial fraud — from the complex swaps that Bankers Trust sold to Procter & Gamble in the early 1990s to the I.P.O. kickback schemes of the late 1990s to the fall of Enron — e-mail messages and internal documents became the central exhibits in our collective understanding of what happened, and why.

It’s really possible that we’ll come away with a much better impression of AIG as a result. They may have simply been the victim of incredibly poor timing and getting in a little over their head rather than having acted as major villains of the crisis. It would also shine some light on their post-bailout activities, activities that have also worried many, including myself, in whether they are playing favorites with taxpayer money. And it would involve crowd-sourcing investigations, so we can see if the financial blogosphere is up for the challenge.

The Roosevelt Institute is putting together an online petition here if you are interested in signing or reproducing it on facebook or twitter. Click through if interested!

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3 Responses to Release the AIG Emails!

  1. Ned Baker says:

    As much as I would like to stick it to the casino bankers wherever they live, is it worth the myriad individual privacy violations that would result by publishing a decade’s worth of company emails? Sounds like a horrible idea to me.

    By the way, loved the thoughtful post “Culture Norms and Walking Away.”

  2. Ted K says:

    This is a great idea just on the face of it. Although I also have problems with the privacy issue, I think that could be rectified by having some small group delete the more personal things (assuming they exist) unrelated to the financial debacle at AIG.

    I know this, that with many jobs nowadays you can be fired for putting certain statements or using personal things in e-mails, so if it’s company emails I would guess they’ve kind of forfeited that right.

    Anyway you could go on and on with the privacy issue, the bottom line is it’s worth an investigation to clarify how much knowledge these guys had about the riskiness of their activities. ON THE WHOLE a great idea by Spitzer, Black, and Partnoy. I bet this was Spitzer’s original idea but he thought he would add a couple names more for extra credibility.

    Merry Christmas/ Happy Hanukkah to all. Save the Morgen David for me. (haha)

  3. Fireman1979 says:

    I only have one question which is does the overwhelming majority of the media ignore William Black. Is he some kind of pariah in the financial industry? The few instances when I have heard or read about him he makes more sense than any appointed official by Obama. I can understand why some of the private media outlets might not like his point of view but why does PBS, PRI and NPR give him so little time on its programs. Is his price for an interview to high?

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