New York & Charlotte, N.C. — American International Group Inc. defended itself today against media reports of a sales meeting held at a luxury resort in Phoenix last week, saying the event was an "essential training meeting."ABC News reported details of the event late Monday, the same day the U.S. government announced a restructuring of a bailout plan for the insurer, boosting aid to the company to around $150 billion—even after the company said months ago it would stop "all nonessential conferences, meetings and activities that do not clearly maximize value and service given the current conditions."

"We reviewed this one. This one did not slip by," AIG spokesman Nick Ashooh said. "Some of the things we've done in the past certainly can be criticized, but this was a totally legitimate event that wasn't even for AIG employees."

Company officials said the meeting, held at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort, was a sales training and education conference for about 150 independent financial advisers in its AIG Advisers Group.

In response to the negative press, Edward Liddy, AIG's chairman and CEO, issued the following statement:

“Recent news reports have grossly mischaracterized an American International Group seminar for 150 independent financial planners held in Phoenix last week.

The financial planners are not AIG employees. In addition, the cost to AIG for this event was minimal. More than 90% of the costs were paid either by sponsors or by the independent financial planners themselves.

It is essential for AIG to conduct seminars of this kind to keep independent financial planners abreast of investment products and services including those offered by AIG. The financial planners are responsible for generating almost $200 million in revenue this year for AIG as of September 30th.

On October 10, I issued a directive to all AIG employees and subsidiaries to reduce expenses and conserve cash, including cancelling all nonessential conferences or meetings, unnecessary travel and excessive overhead. Since then, we have canceled more than 160 events. We conducted a top-to-bottom review of all expenses of the Phoenix meeting in advance and found that it was consistent with my October 10th directive. This conference was approved because it provides the kind of communication we must conduct with the people who sell our products if we are to be successful and repay the U.S. taxpayer.”

Sources: AIG, Business Wire, AP

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