Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the former American International Group chief executive, has more than doubled the size of his class-action lawsuit against the United States over the insurer’s bailout to roughly $55.5 billion from $25 billion. In an amended complaint filed late Monday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, Greenberg’s Starr International Co said it is now seeking damages over Maiden Lane III LLC, a vehicle designed to rid banks of toxic debt underlying transactions with AIG. The claims are in addition to claims that Starr previously asserted over the government’s taking of a 79.9 percent stake in AIG in September 2008, which was eventually swapped for 562.9 million common shares. In the amended complaint, Starr said it is seeking to recover, on behalf of shareholders and the company, $23 billion over the government’s 79.9 percent stake, plus as much as $32.5 billion of collateral it said was given away through Maiden Lane III. It is also seeking unspecified damages related to AIG’s 1-for-20 reverse stock split in June 2009. [Reuters]
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.
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 »
AIG Pretended It Might Sue The Government To Distract Attention From Its Actually Suing The GovernmentBy Matt Levine
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 »
American International Group Inc.’s directors decided Wednesday not to participate in a lawsuit that accuses the U.S. government of taking advantage of the company in its rescue from the financial crisis. … “The AIG Board has determined to refuse Starr’s demand in its entirety, and will neither pursue these claims itself nor permit Starr to pursue them in AIG’s name,” the company said in a release. …
Mindful of the potential backlash, a number of AIG directors entered Wednesday’s meeting leaning toward rejecting Starr’s request to join its suit, two people familiar with their thinking said
If you read as much of the Internet as I do, you probably noticed that a lot of people yesterday freaked the fuck out over the pseudo-fact that AIG was considering joining the lawsuit, brought by its ex-CEO Hank Greenberg and his investment company Starr International, against the U.S. government for basically being too mean in bailing out AIG. Some of these people were regulators, Senators, and Congressmen, three of whom penned this cheery missive to AIG: 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 »