Regular visitors to this web site know that I have been highly critical of the way the president of Allianz of America and the management of Allianz Life have systematically destroyed the value, brand, culture and future of Allianz Life. I have further charged that they lack the experience, talent or vision to reverse the downward spiral they have triggered. I have also been critical of the management at Allianz SE in Germany for allowing this situation to develop and carry on.
However, there is one area where I believe Allianz is getting a bad rap.
As you may have heard or read, Allianz SE had been in discussions regarding naming rights for the stadium being built for the New York Jets and Giants. Here’s a sample. The proposal was that, in exchange for Allianz paying between $25 and $30 million a year for 25 years, the stadium would be called “Allianz Stadium.” When the negotiations became public there was a well-spring of hew and cry from Jewish groups (although not all of them). The bone of contention was this: should a German company that insured Nazi concentration camps and turned over assets of Jewish families to the Nazi government be allowed to put their name on an American stadium? In the end this controversy caused discussions to be terminated.
Even though I have been critical of Allianz management and I can understand the continuing outrage of Jewish and other groups, this is one area where I believe Allianz SE is the victim. Certainly no one (except maybe the wacko Iranian president Mahmaud Ahmadinejad) would condone, excuse or forget the atrocities of the Nazi government against the Jewish people. However, I believe it is unfair and wrong to hold the current management of Allianz liable for actions taken by the company over 60 years ago. Those leading Allianz today were not even born when these events took place.
During my years as CEO of Allianz Life I had the opportunity to work closely with the leaders of Allianz in Munich. Indeed, I was in Munich attending a meeting of the Allianz International Executive Committee and the Allianz Board of Management when news of the 911 attacks came in. I was impressed that the first reaction of these German executives was a sincere concern for the safety of the American employees of Allianz who may have been in the World Trade Center. They were not concerned about business, but about people and acted as if Germany itself had been attacked.
Many times I personally observed that the executives of Allianz were embarrassed, contrite and ashamed of actions taken against the Jewish people by the Nazi government and the involvement – if only tangential – of Allianz. It was not just their words, but their actions that convinced me of their sincerity.
The wrongs can never be made right and there is not enough space here to go into all the details, but I am convinced that beginning shortly after World War II and up to today, the management of Allianz has worked sincerely and diligently to identify and offer reasonable reparations for the financial losses inflicted on Jews. My experience has been, that, if anything, the current management of Allianz has done much more to offer sincere acts of contrition than others (including American companies) who were also involved in supporting the Nazi government and these crimes.
We should never forget and maybe not even forgive the actions of the Nazi government, but after over 60 years, I do not believe the current management of Allianz should be penalized for the acts of their fathers and grandfathers. If we are going to hold Allianz liable, then we should also hold liable those American companies who also supported the Nazi government. And if that is the case, then all of us should be held liable for the crimes of our forefathers against Native Americans and African Americans.