Wednesday, May 04, 2005

An honourary Oirishman

The evidence becomes ever clearer that the genius of the Irish Republic's natural party of government, Fianna Fail, was to find a synergy between their own propensity for dodgy dealings and the desire of people around to the world to have a scenic venue for the same activities. Because, not for the first time, the Republic's lax corporate regulation is showing up as a bit player in the AIG scandal.

Today's Wall Street Journal (subs. req'd) reports on the state of the corporate divorce between Maurice Greenberg, ousted supremo of AIG, and the company -- complicated both by the amount of his personal stuff that he kept in his office, and the fact that he still controls private entities that have significant influence over the main company. So AIG is looking into how it might gain control of the private entities, named for the company's founder C.V. Starr. But:

According to Starr documents, if the Starr businesses are ever liquidated, the assets -- to avoid certain taxes -- would transfer to an Irish charity initially and then to the Starr Foundation. The chairman of the Starr Foundation? Mr. Greenberg.

It's not inconceivable that Irish regulation of charities is tougher than its regulation of financial corporations. If we were AIG's lawyers, we'd be looking closely at that portion of Irish law to see whether the specified transfers to and from the charity are legal.

UPDATE 17 JUNE: The Irish charity is called Starr International Charities. It seems to be owner of the Starr entity SICO which Greenberg used as a compensation vehicle in running AIG. And as for its charitable activities, a New York Times article noted:

Other than a contribution last year to Dublin's Abbey Theater, the charity has yet to make substantial local contributions, but SICO representatives said it plans to do more this year.

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