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Ex-AIG CEO Maurice 'Hank' Greenberg Begins To Testify In Fraud Trial

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

A 91-year-old man took the witness stand in New York yesterday. Hank Greenberg is the former head of AIG, the insurance company that the federal government took over during the financial crisis. Greenberg was accused of accounting fraud, a charge his defense lawyers have fought for 11 years. Now, he faces his own accounting, as Charles Lane reports from our member station WSHU.

CHARLES LANE, BYLINE: When called to testify, Greenberg sprang from his seat and shuffled to the witness stand. He wore an expensive-looking suit and patiently smiled as the prosecutor asked questions about Greenberg's ascent to lead the largest insurance company in the world.

The government tried to show that Greenberg ran AIG with a top-down marshal discipline. New York's attorney general wants to prove that Greenberg knew about two transactions that hid millions of dollars in insurance losses in order to boost stock prices. The case has hundreds of pages of documents bound in big volumes arrayed in front of Greenberg.

The binders are so big the bailiff has to help Greenberg open and close them. And the judge often bends down to help Greenberg find the correct page. The fraudulent transactions occurred some 16 years ago. And the closer the government got to the details, the less Greenberg said he remembered or even cared. At

one point, the prosecutor raised his voice and questioned why Greenberg didn't care about charges of fraud, but then the government's lawyer quickly backed off. After Tuesday's session closed, Greenberg's attorney, David Boies, said the testimony went very smoothly.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DAVID BOIES: I thought Mr. Greenberg remembered remarkably a large amount, given how many years ago this happened. We should all have his memory at 91 (laughter).

LANE: Greenberg will face perhaps one or two more days of questioning from the government into next week. Greenberg will receive more friendly questions from his defense team. For NPR News, I'm Charles Lane. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.