U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke shouldn’t be compelled to testify in Maurice “Hank” Greenberg’s lawsuit over the government’s bailout of American International Group Inc., the Justice Department said.
Starr International Co., Greenberg’s closely held investment firm and an AIG shareholder, hasn’t shown the “extraordinary circumstances” needed to warrant the testimony because information on Bernanke’s role in the 2008 bailout can be obtained from other sources, the U.S. argued in a filing in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington.
“As a general rule, high-ranking government officials are not subject to depositions regarding the reasons for taking official actions,” Brian Mizoguchi, a Justice Department lawyer, wrote in the filing yesterday.
Starr sued the government for $25 billion in 2011. Greenberg called the assumption of 80 percent of AIG’s stock by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York in September 2008 a taking of property in violation of shareholders’ constitutional rights to due process and equal protection of the law.
The AIG board on Jan. 9 declined to join the suit, saying that it was unlikely to succeed and risked harming the company’s reputation after the bailout.
Alison Preece, a spokeswoman for the law firm representing Starr, said she had no immediate comment on the filing.
Bernanke was served with a deposition notice on June 21 by Starr, which seeks to interview him on Aug. 16, according to the government’s filing. The government contends whatever he has to say is available from sources such as Board of Governors meeting minutes or depositions of lower-ranking officials.
A related case brought by Starr against the New York Fed was dismissed in November by a judge in New York.
Greenberg, 88, stepped down as AIG’s chairman and chief executive officer in 2005 amid an investigation tied to an accounting scandal.
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