AIG offers to vet wealthy clients' servants

AIG wants to help affluent clients work out if they have a gentleman's gentleman who is no gentleman, a nanny who kidnaps instead of taking the kids for a nap, or a gardener who is plucking more than petals.

The insurer yesterday said that it would provide free background investigations into the housekeepers, gardeners, chefs, chauffeurs, healthcare workers and other domestic staff employed by the policyholders of its private-client group.

The division offers kidnap and ransom coverage and insures fine homes with replacement costs of more than $1 million, the jewelry and art collections that fill them and the aircraft used to fly to them.

Gary Raphael, vice-president and director of risk management services, said AIG's goal was to minimize threats to the families it serves by helping them hire help with confidence. "Background checks are an important step in enhancing the safety of family members and possessions," he said. Hiring safe staff would reduce the level of risk for both the client and the insurer.

Kroll, an international security and private investigation company, will verify the identity and address history of current and prospective household staff, confirm educational backgrounds, employment history and professional licenses, as well as search for federal, state and county criminal records.

Policyholders will be able to screen all of their U.S. based staff once the employees have given written permission. Financial services companies have long offered their wealthiest clients a list of special services ranging from help with building and preserving art collections to special loans for vacation homes.

The free background check is part of a growing list of services offered by AIG's private-client group. Last year it started offering insurance for yachts and classic cars, and flood insurance for mansions. It even offers a concierge service to handle claims.

But AIG has long been concerned about the people who work hard to maintain such toys.

In January 2002, the insurer started offering liability coverage to protect its wealthy clients from allegations of sexual harassment, wrongful termination and discrimination from the hired help. At the time, AIG said that there were nearly 1 million people employed in private residences across the U.S.