Think Tanks or in the Tank (vol. 2): eSapience & Hank Greenberg
On May 7th Rick Cohen wrote an enlightening piece for Tort Deform about Hank Greenberg. As stated by Cohen:
In well publicized run-ins with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the former Attorney General of New York, Maurice “Hank” Greenberg became an avatar of the corporate movement to overturn Sarbanes-Oxley and to promote so-called tort reform. The SEC’s investigation of AIG had prompted the corporation to ease Greenberg out of the top slot.
Spitzer's charges addressed Greenberg’s administration of the estate of C.V. Starr, the founder of American International Group, the insurance behemoth that Greenberg also ran. According to the AG, Greenberg and partners as executors of the state has sold Starr assets to a firm he controlled at allegedly less than the market rate. Since the estate was meant to benefit the Starr Foundation, which Greenberg chaired, the AG charged that Starr has shortchanged his own foundation several billion dollars.
Starr didn’t take the accusations kindly, launching an all-out crusade against Sarbanes-Oxley-type oversight of corporate accountability and against the sullying of his reputation. Part of it seems to have been a massive amount of Starr Foundation grants to the National Chamber Foundation, an “educational” arm of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce addressing issues of government oversight and tort reform (Greenberg notoriously has referred to tort lawyers as “terrorists”). No surprise, but the Chamber and its CEO, Tom Donohue, have been supportive of AIG and Greenberg personally. (link)
In response to these events, Greenberg actually launched a PR campaign to re-build his and his institution’s image. As described by Cohen:
In one instance, Greenberg’s investment company, C.V. Starr & Co., hired an entity called eSapience, based in Cambridge MA, to do some personal image-burnishing. A number of conservative scholars dedicated to free-market business theories run—or ran—eSapience, including the dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management. Probably no one would have noticed eSapience’s contractual relationship with Greenberg and C.V Starr & Co. had the firm not filed suit in U.S. District Court alleging that it had been stiffed for over $2 million in expenses (since the litigation, the website of www.esapience.org has been largely down). (link)
Now you can take a close look at the strategy memo of the PR campaign (now a court document) describing in detail exactly the duties of this PR firm vis-a-vi Greenberg.
Before looking at the document here are some choice quotes:
“Our goal is to position Mr. Greenberg as a visible and highly credible public intellectual on a small set of issues that are completely unrelated to his current legal situation.”
“Our goal is to provide a foundational understanding of the industry’s business practices, economic underpinnings, and legal/regulatory environment, and to represent it as one which also operates within a complex maze of tax, accounting and regulatory law created by the government that necessarily invites confusion and ambiguity.” (emphasis added)
“Our [core team] consists of an independent network of academics, economists, legal scholars and other public intellectuals. They [Richard Epstein, David Evans, Andrei Hagiu, Robert Han, Keith Hylton, Josh Lerner, Richard Schmalensee] are highly respected and regarded by the public and their peers as independently minded. Because they are not “hired guns,” they are influential and listened to.” [Note that the hourly rate paid by eSapience for academics is $400-1000/ an hour for these non-“hired guns”]
“Our goal is to keep our core team small and tightly controlled.”
Note that based on the rates that eSapience was willing to pay to implement its plan, the right wing seems to have more money than God:
“Hourly rates vary. Academic billing rates range from $400/hour to 1,000/hour”
“Consulting team billing rates range from $175/hour to 600/hour”
The document begins below and continues after the fold as a series of images.