JUNE 29 -- This morning the AIG shareholder meeting began and quickly ended. In a room filled with empty green chairs, Wall Street's least envied man, Ed Liddy, presided over a polite, subdued annual meeting of one of the financial world's most notorious disasters.
The meeting began with a courteous round of applause for the 11 new directors, and another round of applause for the retiring Edmund Tse, longtime leader of AIG's Asian business.
There were only five questions in the 51 minute session. Liddy breezed through the proxy quickly. Repeatedly mentioned was the new AIU and spinoff AIA, which might be the worst-ever effort in company rebranding. (Why couldn't they change all 3 letters instead of just the one?)
The stunning part of this morning's meeting was the complete lack of outrage. There was heavy security going into the event complete with x-ray machines and metal detectors (AIG is great at spending taxpayer money) in what was probably fearful anticipation of angry shareholders. However, the most vociferous I heard was an exasperated sigh from a man on the baggage claim line. During the meeting, one retiree asked Liddy if she and her husband, who were heavily invested in AIG and lost 98% of the investment should sell their remaining stock or hold onto it. Liddy said she should talk to a financial advisor. She thanked him.
Opinions were gently expressed that "someone should be held accountable" for the company's downfall, but Liddy kept his focus on the company's "future" (which could best be described as a garage sale).
Liddy mentioned that the search has begun for a new CEO and new Chairman, citing that watching over AIG was not how he wanted to spend his retirement. But for all those retirees who lost their money at AIG, working at WalMart isn't how they wanted to spend their retirement, either.
No Chairmen or Directors were harmed in the staging of this event. At least the Belgians had the dignity to throw a shoe or two at Fortis's board in April.