Brian Lehrer: What put AIG in your sights as New York attorney general?
Eliot Spitzer: We were approached by some sources who said that AIG, which was at the time guided by Hank Greenberg as CEO, was, to speak in street vernacular, juicing its books by creating false reinsurance contracts that would appear to add capital to its balance sheet. Now that sounds all very complicated but, what it really means is they were playing games with their accounting in order to look stronger than they were. Hank Greenberg, there are tapes that prove this, was very, very concerned with any, even minor, fluctuation in their stock evaluation.
These contracts, it was alleged, were designed to make them look better in the eyes of Wall Street. We investigated, brought a civil case to settlement of $1.4 billion. At the time, $1.4 billion seemed like a lot of money. It was the biggest financial settlement ever. The board removed Hank Greenberg because he invoked the Fifth Amendment, when he was asked about this. Four people were charged criminally and convicted for basically playing games. But it lead us to inquire and to probe into the inner workings of the company and what we saw was a mess.
A water main break in lower Manhattan is causing subway and traffic disruptions. The break occurred on Varick Street about 12:20 p.m. and is causing delays on the Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 subway lines. The Department of Environmental Protection says it has shut off water in the area. Two lanes have been closed to traffic while crews work on the problem.
Despite the hype over shovel-ready projects, and a list 787 transit projects that are "ready-to-go within 90 days", it's going to take well over a year before the $8.4 billion that the federal stimulus bill allocates for mass transit is actually spent.
Last week, the Federal Transit Administration put out its regulations on spending that money (PDF). They stipulate that half of the money allocated to a particular state or transit agency must be "obligated" within the next six months, and the rest of it in the following six months.
But "obligate" means simply this: that the FTA agrees that the local transit agency is planning to spend the money in an appropriate way. It does not mean that the agency has to have put the project out to bid by that point, much less that it be put under contract.
Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner says he'll decide in June whether he will run for mayor. Weiner, who represents parts of Queens an
Brooklyn, said in a letter to supporters that the nation's economic crisis 'is a time for problem solving' in Washington. He said he'll decide during the Congressional summer break, quote, 'the best political course.' A potential Democratic rival -- City Comptroller Bill Thompson -- already has hired a campaign manager. Mayor Bloomberg also has hired staff for his re-election bid.
From heist movies in the Great Depression to 1967's 'Bonnie and Clyde' to a new film about John Dillinger, Hollywood has had a longstanding love affair with bank robbers. Leonard Lopate looks at populist ideas in a few of these movies and why, even though they're criminals, many of us end up rooting for the robbers. Film critics David Thomson and Mark Harris join Leonard to talk about 'Dog Day Afternoon' (1975), 'Bonnie and Clyde' (1967) and “The Bank Dick” (1940).
Anyone who has been commuting from the Bedford Avenue L stop for the past 10 years must have noticed something funny happening. Not only has the platform, once pretty civilized, has become become painfully crowded, but when the train comes, there's no room to squeeze on. The nonpartisan think tank ...
The Senate Republicans, who are in the minority in that house by just one seat, rejected both Governor Paterson's dozens of new taxes and fees to raise revenues and a plan circulating in the legislature to raise taxes on wealthy. 'You can't tax your way out of this situation,' says Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos.
On March 5, 1946, Winston Churchill delivered a speech, 'Sinews of Peace', at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri. In it, he uttered the famous metaphor, 'the iron curtain', that resonated for decades and has recently been resurrected to discuss the current economic crisis in Europe.
'From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.
March 4, 1933
This great nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper.
So first of all let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.
The Brooklyn Bridge may not be for sale, but it's one of the East River crossings that has inspired haggling worthy of a Persian marketplace. And the latest back-and-forth between the Metropolitan Transit Authority and New York State legislature has taken us one step closer to tolls on all East River crossings that are currently free.
First, the transit authority said that a $5 per vehicle toll was the minimum it would have to charge to raise revenue and close its budget gap. Then political leaders like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Mayor Bloomberg floated the idea of $2 tolls. And like a novice bargainer, the MTA agreed too soon.
Senate Leader Smith got suspicious.
This morning, he said the authority needed to agree to a full audit. 'You know they kept two books at a time,' he said.