AIG

A while back Bear Stearns sold some mortgage-backed securities to a thing called FSAM, which was basically a subsidiary of Franco-Belgian monstrosité Dexia, and FSAM sold the RMBS on to Dexia, and the mortgages were all terrible, and their value dropped, and Dexia sued JPMorgan, currently the proud owner of Bear Stearns, and today JPMorgan won:

JPMorgan Chase & Co has won the dismissal of the vast majority of a lawsuit accusing it of misleading the Belgian-French bank Dexia SA into buying more than $1.6 billion of troubled mortgage debt.

The decision, made public Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan, is a victory for the largest U.S. bank, in a case that gained notoriety after emails and other materials were disclosed that suggested the bank and its affiliates knew the debt was toxic, but sold it anyway.

Despite the notoriety this is kind of a boring case: it’s a garden-variety RMBS fraud case; Bear said various things in the offering documents that maybe weren’t so true, and the market crashed and the investors lost a lot of money, and now they’re mad. There’s like a zillion of those cases; actually there’s like a zillion of those cases just against Bear Stearns (here are two).

But the fact that the bank won is pretty interesting? Like, if JPMorgan can win a garden-variety RMBS case then so can anyone? I guess? So I suppose it’s worth spending a minute figuring out what this means for other banks.

We run into immediate problems because it’s hard to know exactly why JPMorgan won; the judge’s order is two pages of “opinion to follow.” But reading JPMorgan’s submissions you can get behind CNBC’s interpretation: Read more »

A New York Fed underling helped save AIG. Now, he’s going to help it win $10 billion from Bank of America. Read more »

Hank Greenberg: still at it! My lord. Remember when AIG was going to sue the government along with him, and everyone freaked out, and then it didn’t, and everyone was all “whew, glad that’s over”? Hahaha yeah. Not over.

Greenberg filed his amended complaint in his lawsuit against the government today, and in addition to sort of doubling down on his damages claim,1 he makes a whole lot of hay out of the fact that when he asked AIG to join his lawsuit, people made fun of him. Also I guess some other stuff:

The Government also threatened the AIG Board with the purpose and effect of intimidating AIG and its directors into acting to halt this litigation. The United States indicated it would wage a negative public relations campaign against AIG and its directors, terminate any cooperative relationship with AIG, and heavily scrutinize AIG’s SEC, tax, and other filings from the 2008 to 2010 period when Defendant controlled AIG.

Government officials mounted a campaign, including in the days immediately preceding the Board meeting to consider Plaintiff’s demand, to intimidate the AIG Board that condemned the AIG Board for even considering, much less accepting, the demand. …

As a result of the various factors that had compromised the independence and due care of the demand process, the AIG Board did not take the several weeks it had stated to this Court it would take to make a considered decision following the presentations to it on January 9, 2013, but rather rejected the demand the same day, less than three hours after those presentations ended. The AIG Board had in fact made its decision to reject Starr’s demand even before the presentations were made.

We talked about this when it happened, and I pointed out that this stuff matters.2 Greenberg is mostly – not entirely but mostly – suing on behalf of AIG. In particular, the extra $32 billion that he found in the lawsuit’s couch cushions this time around is entirely AIG’s claim: the shareholders never had that money; the company did. Read more »

  • 01 Mar 2013 at 5:04 PM

AIG Is Even More Not Owned By The Government

AIG is in the news today for two very small numbers in connection with much larger numbers. First: AIG is no longer bailed out! I know, you thought that happened like six months ago, and then again three months ago, but today AIG got rid of the last little bits of government ownership, really this time:

American International Group, Inc. (NYSE: AIG) announced today that it completed the repurchase of warrants issued to the United States Department of the Treasury (U.S. Treasury) in 2008 and 2009. … AIG and the U.S. Treasury agreed upon a repurchase price of approximately $25 million for the warrants. The U.S. Treasury does not have any residual interest in AIG after AIG’s repurchase of these warrants.

“With AIG repurchasing all outstanding warrants issued to the U.S. Treasury, we are turning the final page on America’s assistance to AIG,” said Robert H. Benmosche, AIG President and Chief Executive Officer. “We appreciate the opportunities this support allowed and are proud to have returned to America every cent plus a profit of $22.7 billion.”

Back in December, I speculated baselessly about why AIG didn’t just buy back these warrants in connection with Treasury’s final sale of stock back in December, since they were just rounding error on the $7.6bn offering. I figured waiting would let the government get a better deal, and it seems to have: I ballparked a value of $18,000,000.393 for those warrants in December, so Treasury made an extra $7mm by waiting three months.1 One possible explanation is that AIG and Treasury enjoyed the dynamic of announcing “AIG HAS PAID OFF ITS BAILOUT” every three months, so they milked it for all it was worth. I’m sure someone from Treasury left a pen or something at AIG’s offices, and its return will be announced with great fanfare in a few months.

But this is a distraction from more amazing, less pleasant AIG news: Read more »

The Greenberg of The AIG Story is a cross between Henry Ford, Henry Kissinger and James Bond. When some ski gondolas come loose on a Vermont mountain that he later turns into “one of America’s leading resorts”, he skis down “to warn others and prevent injuries.” When he flies to Vietnam after a hotel fire in Ho Chi Minh City “the victims and their families [are] moved by Greenberg’s presence”. He selects where to put the ashes of Cornelius Vander Starr, the founder of AIG, and builds an 18-hole golf course at his mentor’s country house “in response to requests from guests.” He is barred from AIG’s headquarters, and denied access to personal material including letters from his mother “and medical files for his dog, Snowball”. [FT]

Have you ever wanted to hold a mock trial of Hank Greenberg’s lawsuit over the AIG bailout from the comfort of your own home? If so, you’re in luck, because yesterday AIG filed with a federal court the complete AIG Mock Trial Deluxe Kit. It’s all here:

  • A written protocol for conducting the mock trial
  • Briefs, reply briefs, and sur-reply briefs from Hank Greenberg’s investment vehicle Starr International, the Treasury, and the New York Fed
  • A polite letter from the Department of Justice declining the invitation to attend1
  • PowerPoint presentations of both sides2
  • A transcript of highly respected lawyers arguing both sides

The mock trial was, of course, conducted by AIG’s board a few weeks ago as part of the board’s consideration of whether to join Greenberg’s lawsuit against the government claiming that AIG’s bailout was an unconstitutional taking of shareholder property. The board, unsurprisingly, went with no, and yesterday it filed the full mock trial kit with the court hearing Greenberg’s claims.

The transcript is a very good read; I will mostly pick out a few amusing points but that shouldn’t detract from the facts that (1) there is a legitimate serious interesting issue here, beyond the “ooh look at the ingrates” surface, and (2) both sides did a good job of arguing it. David Boies, Greenberg’s lawyer, has the harder case – that the government unconstitutionally took 80% of AIG’s equity by entering into a voluntary credit agreement approved by AIG’s board that included a grant of equity – but he does a good job with it, resting his argument largely on Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act (which permits the Fed to lend to non-banks but which does not on its face allow the Fed to, for instance, punitively demand lots of equity in excess of what it needs to compensate it for that lending) and on public statements by government officials to the effect of “AIG’s bailout was harsh because we wanted to make an example of them.” Read more »

There’s a lot to choose from but I’m going to say that the very best thing about AIG’s pretending it might sue the government last week, and then not doing it, is that then it actually sued the government:

American International Group Inc. filed a lawsuit against a Federal Reserve vehicle created during AIG’s bailout that held some of its troubled mortgage bonds, in a dispute over rights to sue over the bonds. … At issue is whether AIG, in selling billions of dollars in troubled mortgage bonds to the New York Fed in late 2008, transferred its rights to sue for losses it incurred on the securities.

So it’s not quite as big as the Hank Greenberg give-me-back-my-$25-billion lawsuit that AIG opted out of, but it’s pretty big; AIG thinks it has over $7 billion in damages against Bank of America/Countrywide alone. If it’s right, either AIG or the Fed should be entitled to about $7bn of BofA’s cash. So call this 1/4 as big as joining the Greenberg suit, though considerably less than 1/4 as offensive.

One way to resolve this dispute amicably might be to conclude that both AIG and the Fed should be entitled to $7bn of BofA’s cash. After all, who decided that only one investor gets to sue BofA per mortgage? We’ve talked before about the fact that BofA’s liability for Countrywide mortgages does not seem to be limited by the amount of mortgages that Countrywide wrote; several lawsuits now cover overlapping pools of mortgages. How much BofA ends up paying for those mortgages will depend on political and PR factors, on the existence of embarrassing emails, on technicalities of contract drafting and legal doctrines, and on how much money BofA, y’know, has, but it seems unlikely that it will depend on some sort of one-mortgage-one-lawsuit principle. You write enough bad mortgages and you give up your expectations of tidiness. Read more »