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Duly Noted

Tuesday, Oct 18, 2011, 7:37 am

Notorious A.I.G. to Sell Reputation Insurance to its Own Customers

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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Mindy_g, Creative Commons.

Love those great A.I.G. rates, but hate the stigma of buying insurance from one of the major culprits in the global financial crisis? No problem.

For just a few dollars more, A.I.G. will insure your reputation against the possible taint of doing busines with A.I.G.:

Insurance providers are constantly coming up with new products to sell to policyholders. But the American International Group has hit upon one of the more unusual new services we’ve heard of in some time: reputation insurance.

Chartis, A.I.G.’s property and casualty insurance arm, said Tuesday that it would begin selling something called ReputationGuard. Created by Chartis’s executive liability team, it would give policyholders access to “a select panel” of experts at the public relations firms Burson-Marsteller and Porter Novelli to protect against negative publicity. [NYT Dealbook]

There is a catch: Burson-Marsteller's reputation leaves something to be desired. In fact, as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow famously said, “When Evil needs public relations, Evil has Burson-Marsteller on speed-dial.”

Over the years, B-M has distinguished itself as a one-stop-shop for dictators looking to put the best possible spin on genocide (East Timor, Biafra) and mass disappearances (Argentina), corporations seeking to squelch action on climate change, tobacco companies wanting to cast doubt on the harms of second-hand smoke, and the world's largest mercenary army. They're very good at what they do, but if people find out that B-M is defending your reputation, they might assume you're kind of sleazy.

That's why, for just a few dollars more, you can get Meta-ReputationGuard, which insures you against any taint that may accrue to your brand by its association with anyone A.I.G. hires to protect your reputation against doing business with A.I.G..

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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