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CEO of The Hartford rebuked for insurer's slide

A retiree and shareholder of The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. rebuked CEO Ramani Ayer at the insurer's annual shareholders meeting Wednesday as the chief executive outlined new steps for the battered company.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A retiree and shareholder of The Hartford Financial Services Group Inc. rebuked CEO Ramani Ayer at the insurer's annual shareholders meeting Wednesday as the chief executive outlined new steps for the battered company.

"I want to congratulate you for driving The Hartford into the ground," shareholder Justin Winthrop, 88, of West Hartford told Ayer at the conclusion of the meeting. "When may we expect you to resign? And if you are not so inclined, may the board, with their heads in the sand, take definitive action?"

Ayer told Winthrop, who retired as corporate secretary of the company in 1982, that executives are "working very hard to restore The Hartford's incredible image and venerable reputation."

Ayer spent much of the meeting defending the company's response to the recession that has hit the insurer hard. In April, it posted a $1.2 billion first-quarter loss, and said it is suspending sales of annuities in Japan and the U.K. and halting plans to sell the products in Germany in a move to cut costs.

Ayer said the company is focusing on becoming more "U.S.-centric" and taking other actions to preserve its capital, reduce risk and stabilize its ratings.

The Hartford has cut its dividend and tentatively approved acceptance of $3.4 billion from the Treasury Department under the government's $700 billion financial industry rescue program.

The insurer's share price has tumbled more than 75 percent in the past year, from $65.65 to $14.79 Tuesday.

Shares edged up 12 cents to $14.91 in afternoon trading.

(This version CORRECTS SUBS 6th graf to correct to show The Hartford has tentatively approved acceptance of funds.)