There’s a juicy pile of something going on over on Maiden Lane. Once upon a time, Goldman Sachs murdered AIG and stuffed its corpse with tons of shall we say “troubled” residential mortgage-backed securities. Like a cursed diamond, those securities then bounced around among owners who came to bad ends and ended up in a thing called “Maiden Lane II,” owned by the New York Fed and managed by BlackRock, with a mandate to sell them off over time at prices that “represent good value for the public.”
One day, Credit Suisse came to BlackRock with reverse inquiry for those Maiden Lane II bonds. The Fed via BlackRock solicited bids from five banks, CS, Goldman, Barclays, RBS and Morgan Stanley. The banks conducted some pre-bidding price discovery with their clients, though they were sworn to secrecy and had to get the clients to sign nondisclosure agreements before they could solicit them. Eventually the banks put in bids and Goldman won and bought the bonds, and is now selling them rather nonchalantly to clients, keeping most of them overnight after buying them from the Fed.
A simple story, but it raises two interlinked things to worry about:
(1) Why are you giving all those wonderful wonderful bonds to Goldman, huh NY Fed? HUH?
(2) Why are you keeping all those deadly deadly bonds on your balance sheet, huh Goldman? HUH?
Remember a couple of months ago when former AIG CEO and current dog fancier Hank Greenberg sued the government for $25 billion because it had stolen AIG from him? We all had a good giggle at that but some people think he wasn’t entirely crazy. One of those people is friend of Dealbreaker and Stanford GSB student Ed Couch, who feels Hank’s pain but also has some doubts about his lawyers’ efforts on the case. We pass along his views on the complaint in case you are (1) Hank’s lawyers (give Ed a call!), (2) particularly keen on Hank getting or not getting, as the case may be, his deserved or undeserved $25bn from AIG’s government captors, or (3) just generally interested in the wonky mechanics of equity-linked voting and exchange procedures, which YOU DAMN SURE KNOW I AM but the rest of you can keep your own counsel. Here’s Ed:Read more »
The complaint in Hank Greenberg’s lawsuit against America is now online, and strange and entertaining in equal measures. I’m pretty sure Occupy Wall Street will be interested to hear his theory that the Constitution allows Fed bailouts of struggling financial institutions, but requires those bailouts to be much gentler than the one handed to AIG.
There is some sensible stuff here. Greenberg’s suit makes good use of the SIGTARP report finding that the government didn’t exactly conduct hard-nosed negotiations with AIG’s CDS counterparties. Instead, it bought off the assets covered by CDS at par (even though some of the counterparties might have accepted a haircut), tore up the CDS contracts, and waived any claims AIG might have against those counterparties. And the description of how the government avoided and ignored legal requirements to get a shareholder vote to authorize new shares for the government, and kind of maybe lied about it a bit in disclosure documents, is kind of interesting for shareholder-voting nerds, of whom there are about five and I am one.
But that’s all just a political smoke screen: lots of people are good and mad that the government funneled too much money through AIG to Goldman Sachs or Deutsche Bank or whatever, but pretty much zero of them think that money should have gone to Hank Greenberg instead. And lying in disclosure documents, like insider trading, isn’t a crime if the government does it.
Greenberg’s case really boils down to two claims. First is the constitutional argument that the bailout-in-exchange-for-equity was unconstitutional because “everyone else got a no strings attached bailout, so we should have gotten one too.” And “everyone” included “Libya”:
Throughout the global financial crisis, the Government allowed many domestic and foreign institutions access to the discount window. … [D]iscount window loans peaked at about $110 billion at the end of October 2008. Foreign banks borrowed approximately 70% of that amount; for example Dexia SA of Belgium borrowed about $33 billion; Dublin-based Depfa Bank, Plc, subsequently taken over by the German government, received approximately $25 billion; Bank of Scotland borrowed $11 billion; and Arab Banking Corp., 29% owned by the Libyan Central Bank at the time, received 73 different loans. Wachovia also borrowed $15 billion, and numerous investment banks were also granted access. At no time did the Federal Reserve Board require that it be given control of, or an equity stake in, these institutions. … If AIG had been given similar access to the Federal Reserve’s discount window or other sources of liquidity like these other institutions, AIG would easily have met its liquidity needs.
Well, okay. Maybe! The legal theory of “the constitution requires that anything you give to Libyans you have to give to me” is a bit untested – if true, I am planning to assert my Constitutional right to call down air strikes on my enemies (who are legion). Read more »
American International Group Inc, the insurer majority owned by the U.S. after a 2008 bailout, is hosting an event at a California facility that advertises “the amenities of an ultra luxury hotel.” The American General unit assembled about 65 people who distribute its products for a two-and-a-half-day stay this week at the Resort at Pelican Hill in Newport Beach, California, said Larry Mark, a spokesman for AIG’s life insurance division. Nine AIG managers were also sent to the resort to make presentations, Mark said in a e-mail. He declined to say the cost of the event for the insurer…“We are back to the business of being in business and we’re in the marketplace competing,” said Mark. [Bloomberg]
Remember when the Treasury bailed out AIG and the bailout money was funneled to foreign and/or mollusk counterparties and everyone freaked out? Those were good times. Less good for banks is today, when, in addition to the world ending, AIG started to sue to get some of that money back. Read more »
White collar criminals have had a rough couple of weeks, with judges ignoring important facts like Danielle Chiesi’s insider trading being caused by a deep need to stop her boss from “belittling her understanding of the financial numbers” and Donald Longueuil’s only insider trading on the job, never in his personal life. But there’s finally some good news today, as a federal appeals court reversed five convictions for a reinsurance fraud at AIG. Unlike in Chiesi’s and Longueuil’s cases, the court today looked at the bigger picture and understood that you can’t blame a few small-time book-cookers for all of the terrible things at AIG.
Also, no one connected with AIG in any way is going to jail any time soon. Read more »
In a video accompanying a 40-page slide show describing AIG’s attributes, businesses and financial goals, Chief Executive Robert Benmosche said “there is no more crisis” for the bailed-out insurance company, which now has “lots of growth opportunities,” in his view. Alluding to recent tensions over the size and potential price of the stock offering that AIG and the U.S. Department of the Treasury launched this week, Mr. Benmosche said in the video: “Our sense is we have an incredible valuation opportunity here and we’re just not going to give it away. “If we don’t get the value today, then we’re going to get the value tomorrow… We’re not going to give 100% of the value away and sell it too cheap,” Mr. Benmosche said. [WSJ]