June 10, 2005
Playing "What's My Line?" With the Houldsworth Plea Agreement
For those whose misspent youth included serious TV watching, you'll remember the television game show "What's My Line?" in which celebrities tried to guess the occupation (or with other celebrities their identity) of a contestant by asking a series of questions: "Can you do it at night?" This was my first introduction to Bennett Cerf, Kitty Carlisle, etc. (see here). The government is playing a little bit of that game with the statement of facts for former General Re executive John Houldsworth, who entered a guilty plea in the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud related to structuring a reinsurance transaction to help American International Group dress-up its financial statements through a contract that did not in fact transfer any risk, as required by accounting rules (see earlier post here). The statement of facts (here) refers to other General Re players by their title, such as its CEO, who we know was Ronald Ferguson, and its CFO, who was Betsy Monrad, now on unpaid leave from TIAA-CREF. Others referred to obliquely are Richard Napier, another General RE executive, and, according to a Wall Street Journal story (here), Chris Garand, an executive in General Re's international finite insurance division. A fifth General Re executive has not been guessed yet -- "Is it a he or a she? Does this person have a title of vice president or higher?" -- but the mystery will no doubt be solved as the government gathers in more guilty pleas from the General Re side of the AIG deal.
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