That sure is an odd way to say "thank you," AIG (NYSE:AIG). When presented with an opportunity to sue the very same government that bailed it out during the financial collapse, the company allowed the news to hang in the air a bit too long, leaving investors, Main Street, and Washington in disbelief and anger.
While the notion of suing your rescuer is ridiculous enough, AIG still took the time to consider it. And since the company seems to be on a litigious streak, what's to stop it from taking action against itself? With that irony and pathetic humor in mind, we present you with an exclusive (fictitious) memo from the desks of AIG's legal department.
TO: AIG Executives
FROM: AIG Legal Department
DATE: Jan. 24, 2013
SUBJECT: AIG v. AIG re: False Advertising
Per your directive, the Legal Department has researched the probability of success from AIG's ("the Company") pursuit of legal action against the Company for false advertising in connection to the "Thank You, America" campaign.
- In early January 2013, the Company began airing commercials from its "Thank You, America" campaign, which were a summation of the steps taken by the Company to exit the federal government's ownership and oversight.
- The Company had been bailed out by U.S. taxpayers during the financial crisis of 2008-2009, and as a result, at its highest point, the U.S. government owned 90% of the company.
- In December 2012, the U.S. government sold its last stake in the Company, which prompted the new ad campaign.
- One week into the "Thank You, America" campaign, former CEO Maurice Greenberg initiated a suit against the federal government on behalf of shareholders, contending that the bailout of the Company had violated the Fifth Amendment and deprived shareholders of billions in value.
- Greenberg asked the Company to join said lawsuit -- the Company's Board of Directors declined, but only after debating the issue.
- After the Greenberg issue was resolved, the Company's executives revisited the ad campaign and examined the message being delivered to consumers.
- Upon their examination, the executives determined that the ad campaign contained false sincerity that misrepresented the Company's true stance on the bailout.
- At that time, the Legal Department was asked to pursue a legal case against the Company for False Advertising.
False advertising is defined as:
"Any advertising or promotion that misrepresents the nature, characteristics, qualities, or geographic origin of goods, services, or commercial activities" (Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C.A. § 1125(a)).
- The findings show a blatant disregard for the sentiment described in the title of the ad campaign, and instead found that the ad mainly focused on the achievements of the Company, without respect to American taxpayers' aid.
- In presenting itself in this light, the Company has misrepresented itself and its services as grateful to the American populace, and instead only heightens itself in the commercials to winner status without regard to the assistance provided by the American people and their government, constituting a Failure to Disclose under the Lanham Act of 1946.
- After a thorough review of the facts and legal implications, the Legal Department does not recommend pursuing a court case, but instead would recommend settling with the Company independently.
- Since it is unlikely that monetary impacts of the "Thank You, America" campaign will be easily determined -- making damages unquantifiable -- the Department recommends enforcing Corrective Advertising as a means to resolution.
- Any such corrective statements should include accurate statements about the Company's perspective on the situation, including honest statements from executives -- such as the following from an executive found during the Legal Department's review of the matter: "America, you've been a real pain in our necks since you bailed us out. Sorry about lying to you about our gratitude, but we're glad you got a chance to hear about how awesome we are. You're welcome."
Fool contributor Jessica Alling has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends, owns shares of, and has options on AIG. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.