More than two months after activist billionaire investors Carl Icahn and John Paulson gained seats on American International Group’s expanded board, observers have wondered: Will their presence accelerate pressure on CEO Peter Hancock to split up the company in order to maximize shareholder value?
The answer, as of right now, appears to be a solid “no.”
During AIG’s May 3 investor call, Hancock said the company’s status as a non-banking systemically important financial institution, or SIFI, won’t prevent the insurer from achieving his wide-ranging plan to divest assets, decentralize, cut costs and return $25 billion to shareholders over the next two years. The plan does not include splitting the insurer into pieces, however, something that Icahn and some analysts have been pushing for.
“As we’ve indicated, the $25 billion goal is achievable with all the actions we laid out,” Hancock said during the question-and-answer portion of the call. “I would say that there is a contingency against an adverse market environment based into our plan. I do not think that being a SIFI in anyway inhibits that $25 billion goal; it’s not a binding constraint at all.”
The appointment of Paulson and an Icahn representative to the AIG board on February followed Hancock’s plan announcement in January. Icahn and others want AIG to take more drastic steps so it can shed its SIFI status, a tougher regulatory structure assigned to it in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, a global economic meltdown that led to a massive bailout for the mega-insurer.
Hancock is remaining coy, however, as to whether AIG might pursue legal steps instead to remove its SIFI status. In March, a judge ruled that fellow SIFI insurer MetLife is not “too big to fail” and could escape the SIFI designation. At the time, Hancock said that it could be an opportunity for AIG though he was reserving judgment. During the earnings call, Hancock said that AIG continues to keep its options open.
“The MetLife decision certainly raises the opportunity should it be favorable to consider that down the road,” Hancock said. “I repeat that our current designation as a non-bank SIFI does not constrain our objectives as laid out in our strategic update [but] we are watching very carefully the [MetLife] appeals process.”
For now, Hancock asserted that his grand plan to revamp AIG, make it more nimble and smaller, yet still keep it whole, “will deliver” the results investors are looking for.