Like Enron, AIG used off balance sheet sleight of hand to goose counterparty profits and disguise a house of cards.
But unlike Enron, AIG principals didn't go to jail. They got $122 billion of US tax payer money because they were "too big to fail."
Now, three years after AIG CEO Maurice Greenberg was ousted for fraud--a Sheriff of Wall Street, Eliot Spitzer, collar before Spitzer was a collar--it looks like AIG is also too big to play fair.
Not only are there new indications of AIG accounting fraud--sorry, "mark to market" valuations--US tax payers just got the bill for an AIG hunting party in October to Dorset England that cost $86,000.
Yes, after receiving an emergency $85 billion loan in September and asking for $37.8 billion more weeks later (request: granted!) AIG's Sebastian Preil, Jeffrey Malkovsky, John Roberts and friends picked off partridges outside of Salisbury, Wiltshire in October by way of thanking us.
"The recession will go on until about 2011 but the shooting was great today and we are relaxing fine," the UK site News of the World quotes AIG Frankfurt manager Sebastian Preil quipping as he pulverized French red leg partridges at the Stoke Drove shoot. "We have been given $85 billion from the US bank to help us out but we should be on an even keel in two years."
"It has been a fantastic day," concurred Hilary James, the general manager of New York's Bristol Plaza Hotel described by News of the World reporters as a "boisterous lady in her late 40s from Wiltshire [who] was more interested in talking about the birds she'd killed than the economic crisis."
"We got plenty of shooting in as the weather was fine. We love it here," she said, thankful to US tax payers.
Of course AIG is not the first to celebrate dodging a bullet by making someone else dodge a bullet.
Who can forget Dick Cheney' pheasant hunt on the day he and George W. Bush were re-elected in 2004?
The Veep commandeered Air Force Two to the Pierre, SD airport--thank you tax payers-- where a motorcade sped took him to a hunting lodge in the Gettysburg area even before John Kerry and John Edwards's concession speeches.
This was after he plinked 70 pen-raised pheasants--his hunting party killed 417-- at the Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township, PA in 2004 but before he shot hunting buddy Harry Whittington in the face in Kenedy County, TX 2006.
Unfortunately, Cheney's defibrillator machismo which brought us the war in Iraq caught up with him in South Dakota.
While annihilating pheasants Cheney experienced shortness of breath-- karma?--and was rushed to George Washington Medical Center where he was hospitalized.
"Sorry we ruined your Saturday," his wife Lynn Cheney told reporters at the hospital after he was found to be okay. (YOUR day the pheasants might have said.) "We're great, thank you."
Nor is blood soaked triumphalism an American phenomenon as the celebration of the late King Hussein of Jordan's six months of successful cancer treatment at the Mayo Clinic demonstrated in 1999.
"I am feeling fine," said Hussein as he rode in a motorcade with his wife, Queen Noor, through the streets of Amman awash with the blood of hundreds of camels and sheep slaughtered as he passed by.
"I'm happy for Hussein. I wish him the best of health. But I bet the loyal subjects of his animal kingdom don't share the same sentiments," wrote Star-Gazette columnist Jim Pfiffer about the gory event. "The king returns! Long live the king! Short live the livestock."
When did people stop celebrating with a cake asks Pfiffer and start thinking, "Nothing quite compares with sitting back with a snifter of fine brandy, a hand-rolled Macanudo and a fully-loaded carbine."
He might ask AIG.