John Hornbostel

The general counsel of AIG Investments discusses coordinating the legal team for a global firm

Hornbostel spent nine years at law firm White & Case. For more than two of those years he was based in Prague, where he acquired a taste for international transactions. He was representing a client investing in an AIG-sponsored infrastructure fund in Latin America when he first came in contact with the firm. When the opportunity arose to join the AIG Investments legal team, Hornbostel was excited by the chance to continue working on deals on a global basis.

When Hornbostel first joined AIG Investments, the legal team was a part of the parent company. Although he worked on private equity and hedge fund transactions, he worked out of the firm's Pine Street offices while the deal team worked out of its Water Street offices. Now the legal teams are aligned with the business teams rather than the corporate parent, and Hornbostel's team of 12 attorneys literally works side by side with the alternatives team from their offices at 277 Park Avenue. Whereas before the legal aspects of deals or products were thought of as boxes to be checked off in the final stages, he says, now the legal team and the business team work together throughout process.

As AIG Investments has become a more coordinated, global business, so too has the legal team. “We have monthly meetings as an overall AIG Investments legal team; I have monthly meetings for all the lawyers that work on alternatives,” he says. “There are constant phone calls and emails coordinating how we handle specific issues. Since I have started, I have worked to make the global practice much more consistent and coordinated.” The legal team also devotes some of its time to institutionalizing policies and procedures, as well as developing manuals, checklists and seminars for various types of transactions.

One part of the job Hornbostel finds attractive is AIG Investments' continual expansion into new products, markets and strategies, which keeps the legal team on its toes. He is currently working a new leveraged finance initiative, for example. A few years ago, he worked on a large private equity securitization vehicle for the first time. “The lawyers need to be able to move from what they were doing on the day they joined to adapting to new and different strategies.”

Hornbostel saw more turnover on the legal team when he first joined AIG Investments. But in recent years the firm has been able to attract and retain a talented team by offering lawyers a chance to work more closely with the business side, a more competitive compensation package, and the opportunity to work on a larger variety of businesses. Aligning the legal team with the business side was an important step in drawing legal talent to the firm, he says. “We were able to give the lawyers another avenue to think about in terms of career development: to be dedicated to a particular business group or if appropriate even move into the business side for that group.”