AIG

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 »

I know it’s almost time to forget about former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg’s lawsuit against the government, since AIG yesterday decided not to join it, but I find myself unable to let go. Over the past couple of days of swirling outrage I’ve spent a lot of time with Greenberg’s complaint, and the Court of Federal Claims opinion refusing to dismiss it, and: the whole thing is so kooky and weird! And not crazy, either; probably wrong, but not nuts. How can we consign it to oblivion just because AIG refused to enrage everyone by backing the lawsuit? Fortunately Greenberg’s lawyer David Boies is running around keeping everyone enraged so I guess we have an excuse:

David Boies, the attorney suing the U.S. over American International Group Inc.’s bailout, said the firm’s takeover was an abuse of authority similar to firefighters seizing possessions they rescued from a flood.

“The fire and rescue people say we’re going to cart them out, we’re going to protect them, but we’re going to take 80 percent of them for the firehouse,” Boies said in an interview today on CNBC. “Everybody would know that was wrong. It’s also illegal.”

Hahaha enraging. But basically harmless enough. It’s the next thing he says that’s really weird: Read more »

Is AIG going to sue the government for bailing it out? Hahaha no of course not, come on, that would be nuts. So what is this?

The board of A.I.G. will meet on Wednesday to consider joining a $25 billion shareholder lawsuit against the government, court records show. The lawsuit does not argue that government help was not needed. It 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.”

I say unto you that this meeting is not for “consider[ing] joining” that lawsuit, which is one part of former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg’s so-far-not-particularly-successful campaign to get his $25 billion back from the government. (This part, in the Court of Federal Claims, is still going, unlike the part in a New York federal court that was dismissed.) Rather, it is for humoring Hank Greenberg, and the way you humor people who have lots of high-priced lawyers is by giving their high-priced lawyers a chance to talk to other high-priced lawyers for a long time, with PowerPoint. This paragraph in AIG’s court filing is less “we may join the suit” and more “see Hank we are listening to you really carefully and care deeply about what you have to say now, please, go on, this is a safe space”: Read more »

  • 11 Dec 2012 at 5:47 PM

AIG’s Remaining Bailout Reduced To Rounding Error

A while back I built a spreadsheet to do math about AIG, and it took me a long time and led to basically one short post with what I still think was a rather lovely blobby picture, so I’m just going to shamelessly reuse that spreadsheet with slight updates and be all OOH LOOK AN IRR:

So yeah: as the AIG bailout saga comes to its sort-of conclusion, we can sort of conclude that the government made a 5.6% return on its money. Assumptions etc. in the original post; the accounting profit ties out reasonably well, if you squint, with the Treasury’s official math.

Herewith some random observations and questions on AIG:1 Read more »

Robert Benmosche: We Showed This World A Thing Or Two

“Dear Colleagues,” Robert Benmosche wrote in a memo to AIG employees today. “We come together as a company to celebrate in good times and we draw together in times of shared crisis. Today warrants a celebration like no other in AIG’s history and places well in the past a crisis none of us will ever forget…Today the US Department of the Treasury has priced an offering of approximately 234.2 million shares of AIG common stock at a price to market of $32.50 per share. Upon the closing of this transaction, expected this Friday, Treasury will have sold the last of its remaining shares of AIG common stock, receiving proceeds of approximately $7.6 billion from the sale. The closing of this transaction will mark the full resolution of America’s financial support of AIG…It is one of the most extraordinary – and what many believed to be the most unlikely– turnarounds in American business history. And you did it…You did this. Every single man and woman at AIG did this remarkable thing. There is a saying in American life, there are no second acts. Well, take a bow, because today marks our second act.” [Dealbook]

What’s good about the dismissal of Hank Greenberg’s AIG lawsuit today is that there’s all this roiling weirdness under the basic story of:

  • The government seized AIG because it was garbage,
  • AIG shareholder, ex-CEO, and general fanboy Hank Greenberg sued the government for destroying the valuable valuable value of his AIG stock, and
  • he lost.

Duh he lost! It’s AIG, it’s become a byword for financial failure. “Don’t pull an AIG,” bankers say to each other, in my lazy imagination. You don’t need to be a lawyer to know that a lawsuit claiming that the government’s bailout stole massive value from AIG shareholders was not going to work. It didn’t! The end.

But there actually was all sorts of crazy nefarious stuff going on; your sympathies may vary but I was ever-so-slightly moved by two of Greenberg’s claims: Read more »