Eliot Spitzer says he’ll do in the New York City comptroller’s office what he did in the New York State Attorney General’s office. Assuming he is not lying, that would be a very dangerous thing. New York City voters should remember what he did as AG. Here is a sampling.
As AG, Spitzer twisted a Depression-era law called the Martin Act, intended to police bootleggers, into a despotic sword against corporate New York—the “legal equivalent of King Arthur’s Excalibur,” an informed legal analyst wrote.[i] Writers at Forbes summarized the modus operandi: “The hallmark of a Spitzer trophy is victory by intimidation.”[ii] To give some examples, AG Spitzer:
● coerced Marsh & McLennan’s board to oust CEO Jeff Greenberg, an abuse of power that prompted corporate governance expert Richard I. Beattie, chairman of Simpson Thacher, to condemn Spitzer’s misconduct.[iii]
● pressured AIG’s board to oust CEO Hank Greenberg, an abuse of power that prompted Stanford law professor and former SEC Commissioner Joseph A. Grundfest to lament that if a government official insists that a board fire a CEO, the CEO will be fired, even before any investigation or hearing and even if evidence later shows the government was wrong.[iv]
● blackmailed Merrill Lynch’s board into settling a civil case by saying he would otherwise file assorted criminal charges, dubious as a matter of legal ethics.[v]
● threatened John C. Whitehead, former deputy secretary of state and chairman of Goldman Sachs, for a Wall Street Journal op-ed questioning Spitzer’s tactics, yelling “there is now a war between us and you’ve fired the first shot. I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. . . . You will pay dearly.” [vi]
● bullied friends of Kenneth R. Langone, co-founder of Home Depot and benefactor of NYU medical school, cornering Jack Welch, former chairman of GE, to say he “was so mad that he was going to put a spike through Langone’s heart.”[vii]
● ranted to former New York State Attorney General Dennis C. Vacco about Hank and Jeff Greenberg, that he was going “to take those mother fuckers down.”[viii]
● screamed at a law partner of David Boies, the prominent lawyer who represents Hank Greenberg: “Because your firm is in bed with someone like Hank Greenberg, you have to bear the consequences and I have a bazooka pointed at David Boies, you and everyone else at your firm who is involved.”[ix]
Spitzer brought many down and rattled innocent good citizens. Everyone in New York City should worry that Spitzer will find ways, as he threatens, to radically expand the power of the comptroller to do equally dangerous things in the City. That will include trampling on due process rights and instilling in people fear of out-of-control government officials such he aspires once again to be.