By Dan Levine
(Reuters) - Former American International Group Chief Executive Maurice "Hank" Greenberg sued Eliot Spitzer on Friday, alleging the former New York governor defamed him in several statements to the press, according to the lawsuit.
One Spitzer comment cited in the court filing was made to a legal newspaper in 2012, saying AIG was run "in a corrupt way," said a copy of the lawsuit filed in a New York state court and posted on the Fox Business website.
"This lawsuit is frivolous," Spitzer, who is eyeing a political comeback, said in an emailed statement, adding a recent decision from the New York Court of Appeals bolstered his view. New York's high court last month rejected Greenberg's attempt to dismiss a fraud suit brought by the state's attorney general.
Spitzer added he "will be happy to discuss the relevant facts in the days ahead."
Spitzer made his reputation as fierce critic of Wall Street, but resigned from the governorship five years ago during a prostitution scandal. He said on Thursday he had collected enough signatures to get on the Democratic primary ballot for New York City comptroller.
Greenberg led AIG for nearly four decades before his 2005 ouster. The following year, the insurer paid $1.64 billion to settle federal and state probes into its business practices.
In addition to his 2012 comments to the New York Law Tribune, Spitzer appeared on CNBC's "The Closing Bell with Maria Bartiromo" in July 2012, according to Greenberg's lawsuit. Spitzer was asked to comment on allegations he had disparaged Greenberg in a meeting with former New York Attorney General Dennis Vacco.
Spitzer told Bartiromo that Greenberg was "one in a litany of corporate executives who defrauded the market," the lawsuit said. A few days later, Spitzer repeated his allegations of fraud on his own television show, the lawsuit said.
Greenberg is seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.
The case in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, County of Putnam is Maurice Greenberg vs. Eliot Spitzer, 1436/13.
(Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco; Editing by Peter Cooney)