More payback coming to haunt Eliot Spitzer

Last week was not a good one for Eliot Spitzer. The former New York governor and attorney general became a former cable TV show host when CNN cancelled his four-month-old snoozer of a political talkfest, mainly because of its abysmal ratings. The cancellation marked the end of what initially appeared to be a promising new career for Client No. 9. Spitzer had always enjoyed being on camera, perhaps even more after his exposure as a self-righteous, crusading politician by day and a furtive, valued customer of an illegal prostitution ring by night.

As unpleasant as last week was for Spitzer, it was nothing compared to the week before. That’s because of two former Marsh Inc. executives, William Gilman and Edward McNenney, who had been indicted in 2005 by then-Attorney General Spitzer on 37 counts of bid-rigging. They were each convicted in 2008 on a single count of restraint of trade, but their convictions were flimsy and ultimately overturned. Last October, Gilman and McNenney sued Marsh and several of its executives in federal district court, accusing them of making the pair scapegoats for Spitzer’s investigation. On June 24, they amended their lawsuit to accuse Michael Cherkasky, a former Marsh CEO and Spitzer buddy, of colluding with Spitzer to go easy on the company while sacrificing Gilman and McNenney on the altar of prosecution.

“In return for offering up Messrs. Gilman and McNenney, the New York Attorney General agreed not to criminally prosecute Marsh itself, but instead would target Messrs. Gilman and McNenney for prosecution. The collusion included Marsh designating other individuals as safe from prosecution by the New York Attorney General,” Gilman and McNenney contend in their amended suit. The two men further claim that Spitzer participated in this collusion because he was “seeking the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006, desired to achieve a large public civil settlement with Marsh, which he could then trumpet in the press. To further bolster his crime-fighting credentials, the New York attorney general sought to obtain some successful criminal prosecutions of individuals, even if the evidence did not justify such prosecutions.”

Gilman and McNenney are not the only ones wrongly prosecuted by publicity-hound Spitzer during his flamboyant years as New York’s attorney general. But they are the first to take their claims to a federal court. Judging by their complaint, Spitzer could have many more bad weeks ahead.

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