Spitzer’s Loose Public Talk and Private Emails

The angry Eliot Spitzer, former New York attorney general and quick-term governor, continues to have the habit of loose talk, bordering on the defamatory.

A court last week ordered New York’s current A.G., Eric Schneiderman, to find and disclose email files Spitzer created using a private account while working as a state employee. Such files, if they exist, are covered by the state’s freedom of information law, the court held.

The files are sought by a defendant, Howard Smith of AIG, in a civil prosecution Spitzer launched 7 years ago while A.G.   The emails, which Spitzer says do not exist, are rumored to contain characteristic loose talk that could prove embarrassing to Spitzer and compromise cases he brought.  As I am researching and writing about AIG, my work would benefit greatly from seeing any such emails.

Spitzer is not likely to cooperate. He blasted Schneiderman this week over his handling of the matter.  He also took pot shots at Smith, as well as Hank Greenberg, former head of AIG, that appear libelous, in much the way Spitzer last year drew a defamation lawsuit for comments about other people he targeted as A.G.

Here are excerpts from a report published by the New York Law Journal (requires subscription). 

Regarding Schneiderman, Spitzer said:

I am substantially disappointed in the way the A.G.’s office handled this litigation because for them to have permitted this ridiculous ‘fact’ to go uncontested is just poor litigation and makes me wonder about the skills with which they are handling other cases these days.  I didn’t even know this matter was being litigated. They never reached out to me to ask anything about it, and one would think a competent lawyer would have done that.  The A.G. was supposed to represent me. Suddenly, my private e-mails are subject of an opinion and they are letting go uncontested that they exist. It is crazy that they didn’t call me.

Schneiderman pointed out that his office does not represent Spitzer and otherwise declined comment on Spitzer’s blast.

Regarding Smith and Greenberg, defendants in the case that Spitzer brought, Spitzter said:

This is part and parcel of a continued effort by Smith and Greenberg to litigate this to the end of the earth and clear their names for their involvement with a corrupt company, AIG, and their having run the company in a corrupt way, as has been well established beyond any possible doubt.  They continue to burden the courts with crazy conspiracy theories but cannot escape the simple reality that they were running a crooked company. . . . [Greenberg] was thrown out by his own board and his accounting was fraudulent. If he and Howard Smith can’t yet acknowledge that fact, too bad for them.

All these statements are irresponsible and inflammatory.  They are also either maliciously misleading or flatly false.  And, of course, they are characteristic of Spitzer’s public statements about pending cases despite canons of legal ethics.

After all, every defendant in a case brought by the A.G.’s office is entitled to mount a defense and clear their names.  And there is no evidence that AIG was “a corrupt company” or “run in a corrupt way” or that it was a “crooked company” or that the “accounting was fraudulent.”  Far from it.   As for  “crazy conspiracy theories” and “burdening the courts,” one can only wonder what Spitzer is talking about. Considering that this is how Spitzer talks in public, one can only imagine the language in his private emails.

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4 Responses

  1. AF says:

    Judging by the tone of your posts on Spitzer, I would expect your upcoming book to reflect Mr. Greenberg’s perspective on the NY AG’s investigation of AIG, rather than anything approaching a disinterested scholarly assessment.

  2. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    AF: Not quite. The book will document Spitzer’s conduct in the course of the AIG matter as well as several related cases.

  3. Lucy Powell says:

    Didn’t Spitzer resign as governor after being revealed to be an actual criminal? Something about criminal solicitation of prostitution and evading federal banking laws. Not likely a reliable source, especially on questions of law and morality.

  4. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    Lucy: To a degree. As the writer Peter Elkind explained in his book, The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer:

    “Spitzer’s entire political strategy was based on his projection of an image as a moralist. That he broke numerous laws, so furtively and mischievously, to engage in extramarital sex with young [prostitutes] blew his cover. He was not what he portrayed himself to be. At best, he was a hypocrite. His tactics in the cases he brought underscored that he was not, in fact, the devotee of the rule of law or proponent of justice he and his media friends projected. But in their zeal to condemn, Spitzer and his fans overlooked many principles of legal ethics designed to prevent prosecutors from harassing citizens and unfairly or wantonly destroying reputations.”

    Despite Elkind’s good points and yours, reliabilty is complex. Saints can be wrong and sinners right. To me, the problem with Spitzer’s statements to the press this week, and while A.G., is not that they were made by a hypocrite with obvious problems, but that they simply ignore the facts.