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Hunt for AIG Prosecution Records Ramped Up

ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) - A former American International Group executive renewed claims to access New York's prosecution records, including personal emails from Eliot Spitzer.

Howard Smith, AIG's former chief financial officer, wants all public records for the calendar years 2005 and 2006 "concerning actual or proposed" correspondence "from, to or copying" former state Attorney General Spitzer in nine specific areas, the petition filed on Oct. 29 in Albany County Supreme Court states.

The enumerated areas relate to a lawsuit Spitzer filed against AIG in 2005, accusing the company and certain executives of hiding losses and inflating reserves via fraudulent reinsurance transactions. Spitzer served as New York attorney general from 1999 to 2006, then as governor until his resignation amid a prostitution scandal in 2008.

Smith's attempts to acquire the correspondence have been ongoing since discovery in AIG's prosecution.

Though the Albany County Supreme Court ordered the release of some documents pursuant to Smith's request under the Freedom of Information Law, Smith then amended his request to expand the search for documents.

The attorney general's office had indicated millions of pages were involved, and Smith said it should include Spitzer's government and private email accounts.

By the time the appeal was set to go before the Appellate Division in Albany last year, the sides had reached a settlement on many of the requested documents, except those believed to be in Spitzer's private accounts.

Though the Supreme Court held that the attorney general's office had "both the responsibility and the obligation" to scour Spitzer's private accounts for relevant documents, the state disagreed.

Spitzer had disclosed in an affidavit filed in connection with Smith's 2008 complaint that he used two personal email accounts in connection with his state work.

Rather than settle the question directly last year, the Appellate Division directed the lower court to join Spitzer to the case on remand.

"Resolution of the disputed FOIL demand directly impacts the personal property of Spitzer, now a private citizen who is not before this court and whose significant private rights and property cannot be said to be protected by the current respondent, which admittedly does not represent Spitzer's private interests," the October 2013 decision states.

Earlier this year, the Appellate Division in Albany found that the correspondence with the press that Smith sought in his 2008 complaint was exempt from disclosure as "predecisional" intra-agency records.

"Public disclosure of materials reflecting the process by which respondent formulates its policy concerning statements to and interactions with the press regarding ongoing litigation would, in our view, have the precise effect of stifling open, honest and frank communication that the intra-agency exemption was designed to protect against," their decision states.

Smith's latest FOIL complaint, which names the attorney general's office and Spitzer as defendants, concerns his requests for records pertaining to Spitzer correspondence about Smith and AIG; former AIG chief executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg; AIG financial restatements for 2000-04; the 2005 lawsuit and 2006 amended complaint against Smith, Greenberg and AIG; business transactions referred to in the complaints; the $1.6 billion settlement AIG agreed to pay in 2006 to settle certain state and federal investigations; the Starr Foundation; and the estate of Cornelius Vander Starr.

Smith and Greenberg currently serve as directors of the Starr Foundation, which Cornelius Vander Starr established as his insurer, C.V. Starr & Co., grew more successful and became the AIG that Greenberg later led, according to the foundation's website.

Smith and Greenberg resigned from AIG in 2005, just before Spitzer filed his complaint alleging fraud in the transactions between AIG and General Re, a unit of Berkshire Hathaway.

Smith's Oct. 29 complaint alleges the attorney general's office is "unlawfully withholding the requested documents," and citing "blanket exemption from disclosure," due in part to the ongoing litigation against Smith and the time away from that probe that locating the requested documents will take.

"Here, the NYAG has utterly failed to meet its burden of demonstrating that the requested materials are protected from disclosure by any statutory exemptions," Smith contends.

He also claims the office "has neither obtained nor reviewed the public documents in the possession of Mr. Spitzer, despite the fact that Mr. Smith requested their disclosure."

A spokesman for the office declined comment on the complaint Wednesday.

Smith seeks to have the attorney general's office ordered to produce the requested documents, and to be reimbursed for attorneys' fees and court costs.

He is represented by Vincent Sama of Kaye Scholer in Manhattan.

Bloomberg News reported in July that the state lawsuit against Smith, Greenberg and AIG will go to trial in January.

The state is not seeking damages, but wants to bar Smith and Greenberg from the securities industry or from serving as officers or directors of public companies, according to that article.

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