ATLA Blasts Greenberg for Terrorist Remark; TTLA Follows Suit

March 1, 2004

The Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) announced it has demanded a retraction and an apology from American Insurance Group CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg for calling them “terrorist trial lawyers” in a speech in Boston speech of Feb. 24, 2004. Greenberg reportedly made the remark in a speech to Boston College’s Chief Executives’ Club.

ATLA said the comment comes as its members are completing the largest pro-bono legal project in American history, Trial Lawyers Care, which was set up to assist the families of 9/11 victims. Under its auspices, over 1,100 lawyers have helped over 1,700 individuals and surviving families file their claims with the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, at absolutely no charge.

The attorney’s group cited Reuters as reporting, “Greenberg likened the battle over reforming class action litigation to the White House’s ‘war on terror’…. It’s almost like fighting the war on terrorists,” Greenberg told Boston College’s Chief Executives’ Club. “I call the plaintiff’s bar terrorists.”

ATLA noted that Greenberg is the highest paid executive in the entire insurance industry, and the tenth highest paid executive across all industries. His total compensation in 2003 topped $29 million, and his compensation over the last 5 years was more than $140 million.

In a letter to Greenberg, ATLA President David Casey and Trial Lawyers Care President Richard Bieder stated, “You owe an apology to the American people, as well as to trial lawyers, for trivializing the assaults on our society September 11, 2001. It was an attack on our way of life, including on our constitutionally guaranteed legal system and right to trial by jury, which are the envy of every other country in the world …

“While you and your corporate allies have been spending and lobbying relentlessly to undermine the fairest legal system in the world and take away the legal rights of American families in the name of so-called ‘tort reform’… Trial lawyers have put their time, their talents, and their experience on the line to help the victims of the real terrorists—all for free.”

Casey and Bieder concluded, “Our work with these wonderful families has been a profoundly humbling and gratifying experience for all of us—the best way that we, as lawyers, could help our nation heal the wounds from that terrible day and help the victims of the terrorists who attacked America on September 11th. And now you label us ‘terrorists.’ For shame, Mr. Greenberg.”

In a follow-up announcement, the Texas Trial Lawyers Association (TTLA) also responded to Greenberg’s comments.

“Shame on Mr. Greenberg and shame on AIG,” said John Eddie Williams, TTLA president. “Remember this: 2,995 people were killed or reported missing on September 11, 2001. Remember 2,752 in New York City, 184 at the Pentagon, 40 in Pennsylvania. On May 12, 2003, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, suicide bombers killed 34, including eight Americans. The Pentagon reports that 3,039 Americans have been wounded and 549 Americans killed, as of February 25, 2004. People didn’t die on September 11 so we could have a new buzzword to throw at a person or group of people with whom you disagree. Thousands of American men and women are putting their life on the line for their country at this very second. Respect that and take it seriously.”

The TTLA said AIG had yet to respond to admonishments even after White House sources reported an apology from U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige, after he sparked an uproar when he called the nation’s largest teachers’ union a “terrorist organization.”

“In today’s world, with everything that has happened to us as Americans,” Williams continued, “the meaning behind America’s war on terror … we cannot forget.”

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