Wall Street duo join forces to take on Spitzer

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The Independent Online

A backlash against Eliot Spitzer, New York's attorney general, is growing on Wall Street with two billionaire businessmen who have fallen foul of the combative government lawyer planning to team up to fight litigation he has brought against them.

Hank Greenberg, the former chairman and chief executive of the insurance giant American International Group, and Kenneth Langone, who used to be chairman of the New York Stock Exchange's compensation committee, are considering launching a co-ordinated campaign against Mr Spitzer.

Both high-profile businessmen are being pursued by the crusading attorney general over alleged wrong-doing. Mr Greenberg is accused of accounting fraud, while Mr Langone is being sued for his role in allowing the NYSE's former chairman Dick Grasso to pocket $187m (£106m) in pay.

Mr Greenberg and Mr Langone deny they have done anything wrong and have recently lashed out at Mr Spitzer's tactics, including his use of the media to make damaging allegations about people he is investigating.

After 40 years running AIG, Mr Greenberg was ousted in March amid Mr Spitzer's investigation into accounting irregularities at the insurer. The 80-year-old executive said last week: "For the attorney general to use his office to prosecute, and persecute, people in the press for political gain is wholly against our legal principles. It's outrageous."

Mr Langone, the co-founder of the retailer Home Depot, attacked Mr Spitzer in a similar vein at an event at New York's Waldorf-Astoria last Friday, accusing his antagonist of being driven by "raw ambition for pure political gain". Mr Spitzer is the Democratic candidate to be New York's next governor.

News of an alliance between Mr Greenberg and Mr Langone was reported by the CNBC television network. Both have been busy lining up their powerful connections on Wall Street and in political circles to support their counter-attack on Mr Spitzer as a politically motivated opportunist.

Mr Greenberg is thought to have approached the former New York governor Mario Cuomo. Despite being a Democrat, Mr Cuomo is reportedly helping start a public relations campaign for Mr Greenberg. The two might also use their fortunes to finance an opponent to Mr Spitzer in the gubernatorial election.