July 28, 2012
AIG Turns To Nationalist Angles In Latest Video PR Campaign: Embattled Insurer and Huge TARP Recipient Posts New "Proud To Be American" Series on YouTube — AIG Believes It Now Deserves A "Kinder View" From the American People
Last week, the embattled insurance giant American International Group posted several YouTube videos as part of a new PR campaign, proclaiming that AIG is proud to be an American corporation. Once a mighty industry giant, the company became a symbol for greed and excessive risk-taking on Wall Street and a touchstone for public anger in the wake of the 2008 financial meltdown. AIG was done in by offering large amounts of insurance on complex mortgage-backed investments that it wasn't able to pay when the U.S. housing market collapsed, and the was the recipient of the biggest government bailout of any company during the 2008 financial crisis, totaling $182.5 billion. These days, AIG is about half the size it was prior to the crisis. Shareholders who owned the stock prior to the crisis were wiped out, but those who bought the stock this year in January did well — it's up 31 percent year-to-date. The company has been on the mend since Robert Benmosche, the former head of MetLife, took over as CEO in 2009. Benmosche sold off large chunks of the company to raise money and pay back its loans to the U.S. government. He also set about rebuilding the company's insurance business. The YouTube ads recount the story of AIG's comeback from the depths of the financial crisis, using computer graphics with soft music playing in the background. Some feature testimonials from employees around the globe. At the end of one video, the following titles flash across the screen: "Thank you, America. We're proud to be keeping our promise to stand by you," BusinessWeek reports. The company apparently believes it now deserves a kinder view from the American public — but there's no telling if the campaign will help change its image.
AIG has posted two consecutive years of profits and has paid back its loans from the Federal Reserve. The U.S. Treasury still owns a big stake in the company, but even that has been cut down to about 60 percent from more than 92 percent. The government has made a profit on the stock it has sold, BusinessWeek reports.
Benmosche has said no one believed his company would pay the American people back. He has promised not only make taxpayers whole, but also to give back the money plus a profit. The 68-year-old CEO was diagnosed with cancer in 2010 and is undergoing treatment. He has promised to stay on and fulfill his commitment, reports AP writer Pallavi Gogoi for the BusinessWeek story.