AIG execs at posh Phoenix resort after $85 billion bailout
Reported by: Josh Bernstein
Produced by: Dan Siegel
Last Update: 11/08 2:24 pm
To the outside observer, the 2008 Asset Management Conference held this week at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort in Phoenix was nothing out of the ordinary.
Conference participants, however, were notable because of the publicity they've received for their role in the ongoing financial crisis.
The conference at the posh resort included many senior managers at American International Group, or AIG, one of the world's biggest insurers and recipients in September of more than $85 billion from the federal government.
AIG made significant efforts to disguise the conference, making sure there were no AIG logos or signs anywhere on the property.
An AIG spokesperson said there were no AIG markers in order to minimize signage costs and to lower the company's profile.
A hotel employee told ABC15, "We can't even say the word [AIG]."
In addition to the nearly 150 independent financial planners in Phoenix for training and education, the conference attendee list was a Who's Who of AIG leaders, including Larry Roth, President & CEO, AIG Advisor Group; Art Tambaro, President & CEO, Royal Alliance Associates; Mark Schlafly, President & CEO, FSC Securities; Gary Bender, Senior Vice President, Investment Advisory Services; Bruce Levitus, Senior Vice President, Investment Advisory Services; and Stuart Rogers, Senior Vice President.
The ABC15 Investigators went undercover at the resort and found AIG executives having poolside meetings while drinking coffee and working out at the spa while other attendees were in conference rooms for seminars.
We also watched as half a dozen of the executives went to dinner at McCormick & Schmick's at the Camelback Esplanade, racking up a bill of more than $400 for drinks, appetizers, and meals.
The three-day event at the resort was also supposed to feature hall of fame football quarterback Terry Bradshaw as a motivational guest speaker, but the company canceled Bradshaw's appearance shortly before the start of the conference, according to a company spokesperson.
According to the Washington Speakers Bureau, which manages Bradshaw's speaking engagements, he commands a fee of more than $40,000 per appearance.
When confronted about the conference before departing Sky Harbor Airport on Friday morning, Roth and Tambaro referred all questions to the company's public relations department.
In a press release provided to ABC15 following our attempt to speak directly with the executives, AIG claims product sponsors were underwriting $320,000 of the total meeting cost of $343,000.
An AIG spokesperson told the ABC15 Investigators that AIG was paying for the conference and then would be reimbursed by sponsors.
AIG also said the cost of the Bradshaw appearance was to be paid by a sponsor, not the company.
Roth said in the press release, "We take very seriously our commitment to aggressively manage meeting costs. Our success in enlisting product sponsors to pay for the vast majority of conference costs, while charging financial planners a registration fee and for their travel, has resulted in minimal cost to AIG. In turn, our financial planners benefit from strong educational and training content and the ability to earn Continuing Education (CE) credits."
Late Friday afternoon, AIG spokesperson John Pluhowski told ABC15 that, as part of the conference package, the casitas at the resort where executives stayed cost AIG the same per night rate as standard suites.
Pluhowski also said Roth and Tambaro flew round-trip in coach class.