David Goggins
Former Navy Seal
Career Development
Bryan Cranston
Critical Thinking
Liv Boeree
International Poker Champion
Emotional Intelligence
Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
Retired Canadian Astronaut & Author
from the world's big
Start Learning

Tales From an AIG Insider

Question: How did you get to be the head council at AIG?

Ernest Patrikis:   When I was 55 years old, and I had been at the Fed for 30 years and decided that I was the number two officer of the New York Fed, First Vice President, that they weren’t going to make a lawyer the President of the New York Fed. I decided it was time to move on and I called various people I knew in the neighborhood and amongst those were Hank Greenberg.  I went and met with Hank and he was the fastest.  He said he’d give me a call in two weeks, which he did.  Wages, hours, conditions of employment.  And I had no idea what I was going to do and I don’t think at that time he had any idea what I was going to do. 

I worked for Hank for a year and I called myself – and it was the role that I carried out mostly at AIG-- a “firefighter,” for him, where there was a problem dealing with that problem, going to the next problem, and it also gave me a chance to learn the company.  It was huge, compound, complex, I got to meet people in the United States and abroad and get a feel for the company.  And then I became General Council there.  But working for Hank was a delight.  Notwithstanding his reputation. 

Question: What are some misperceptions about Hank Greenberg’s reputation?

Ernest Patrikis:  Well one, he certainly is tough and resilient; all of those stories are true.  There’s another side of the man about how concerned he is about employees.  How much loyalty and how important loyalty was with him.  Those stories about when a head auditor in Asia had a heart attack in Thailand, Hank stayed up all night on the phone with doctors from New York Hospital and with doctors in Thailand. 

The Star Foundation – and I don’t know if he started this or carried it out, he may have started it.  Every employee for AIG and agents of AIG in the United States and abroad, and these were agents who were – as in Asia, they only sold AIG products, got a scholarship if their child went to an English language college.  The scholarship amount was something like $10,000 or $11,000 and there had to be financial need.  If there was no financial need because the parent was making a large enough salary at AIG. 

So, when one looked at the Star Foundation’s annual IRS report, name of individual after individual after individual and I really learned the scope of it one day when I was in a private dining room waiting for a guest and this gentleman waiter, who was obviously from mainland China.  I asked him what he was going to be doing Labor Day.  And he said he was driving to Cambridge.  And I said, “Why are you driving to Cambridge?”   He said he was taking his daughter, first generation American-born, to MIT, and called it Star Scholar.  So, for people like him, this individual, this was rather significant. 

And that is really something that he really kept up with.  Of course the amounts of money that he gave and the foundations he gave to health and medical, you see that at New York Hospital.  But most of all, he truly cared about employee loyalty.  Loyalty was extremely important to him.  And I think that came out of, perhaps, his Army experience.  You know, when he enlisted under-aged in the Army.  When you’re in a platoon, you develop that amongst people, and he would sometimes say something, I wouldn’t be in a fox hole with that person, which, again, goes to loyalty and trust. 

He decided, I guess, the Head of the Star Foundation was going to be stepping aside.  Florence Davis was the General Council and was going to become the head of the Star Foundation, and I think Florence still is, and he asked me to be General Council.  And that was a unique experience in that I had reorganized the Legal Department at the New York Fed when I was there as General Council.  At AIG, I had to reorganize the Legal Department and put it into some semblance, and it took a while to get a feel for people, and that really for the first I would say, nine months to a year was my major task, was organizing this gigantic Legal Department.  Even when I left eight years later, I’d say it was still a work in progress.

Recorded on November 9, 2009

Ernie Patrikis on the misperceptions of Hank Greenberg.

Live today! | Personal finance in the COVID-19 era

Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.

How often do vaccine trials hit paydirt?

Vaccines find more success in development than any other kind of drug, but have been relatively neglected in recent decades.

Pedro Vilela/Getty Images
Surprising Science

Vaccines are more likely to get through clinical trials than any other type of drug — but have been given relatively little pharmaceutical industry support during the last two decades, according to a new study by MIT scholars.

Keep reading Show less

Consumer advocacy groups are mostly funded by Big Pharma, according to new research

An article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry raises questions about the goal of these advocacy groups.

Image by Jukka Niittymaa / Pixabay
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Two-thirds of American consumer advocacy groups are funded by pharmaceutical companies.
  • The authors of an article in Journal of Bioethical Inquiry say this compromises their advocacy.
  • Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Illness act more like lobbyists than patient advocates.

Keep reading Show less

Bubonic plague case reported in China

Health officials in China reported that a man was infected with bubonic plague, the infectious disease that caused the Black Death.

(Photo by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/Getty Images)
  • The case was reported in the city of Bayannur, which has issued a level-three plague prevention warning.
  • Modern antibiotics can effectively treat bubonic plague, which spreads mainly by fleas.
  • Chinese health officials are also monitoring a newly discovered type of swine flu that has the potential to develop into a pandemic virus.
Keep reading Show less

Women who go to church have more kids—and more help

Want help raising your kids? Spend more time at church, says new study.

Culture & Religion
  • Religious people tend to have more children than secular people, but why remains unknown.
  • A new study suggests that the social circles provided by regular church going make raising kids easier.
  • Conversely, having a large secular social group made women less likely to have children.
Keep reading Show less