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AIG to consider joining suit over own bailout

NEW YORK — Fresh from paying back a $182 billion bailout, the American International Group has been running a nationwide advertising campaign with the tag­line ‘‘Thank you America.’’

Behind the scenes, the restored insurance company is weighing whether to tell the government agencies that rescued it during the financial crisis: Thanks, but you cheated our shareholders.

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The board of AIG will meet Wednesday to consider joining a $25 billion shareholder lawsuit against the government, court records show. The lawsuit contends that the onerous nature of the rescue — the taking of what became a 92 percent stake in the company, the deal’s high interest rates, and the funneling of billions to the insurer’s Wall Street clients — deprived shareholders of tens of billions of dollars and violated the Fifth Amendment, which prohibits the taking of private property for ‘‘public use, without just compensation.’’

Maurice R. Greenberg, AIG’s former chief executive, who remains a major investor in the company, filed the lawsuit in 2011 on behalf of fellow shareholders. He has since urged AIG to join the case.

The choice is not a simple one for the insurer. Its board members owe a duty to shareholders to consider the lawsuit.

Should Greenberg snare a major settlement without AIG, the company could face additional lawsuits from other shareholders. Suing the government would not only placate Greenberg but would put AIG in line for a potential payout.

Yet such a move would almost certainly be widely seen as an audacious display of ingratitude. The action would also threaten to inflame tensions in Washington.

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