It’s looking like Hank Greenberg (‘s lawyer) might actually convince people he was wronged. Read more »
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 »
An important truism in the financial markets is that there’s no such thing as a “toxic asset,” tout court; everything is toxic/dangerous/Bad at some (high) price and attractive/safe/Good at some other (much lower) price and there’s a wide area in between where things mostly live and you fight about their pricing. You can apply that insight to junk bonds or CLOs or really any number of things, and you should, but today it’s sort of fun to apply it to Herbalife. As far as I can tell the argument over Herbalife goes something like this:
Herbalife opponents: Herbalife is a horrible pyramid scheme that preys on disenfranchised, mostly poor and minority people and convinces them to part with their life savings through misleading advertising and high-pressure sales techniques.
Herbalife supporters: True! And … ?
Opponents: And therefore it will be shut down by the FTC and the stock will go to zero.
Supporters: That’s … wow, that’s just hopelessly naive. I’m gonna go buy some HLF.
Today CNBC’s Herb Greenberg has a good statement of the “horrible pyramid scheme” case, which of course has been most memorably taken up by Bill Ackman, who is betting a billion dollars on “shut down by the FTC and go to zero.” And last week Bronte Capital’s John Hempton gave the classic statement of the “hopelessly naive” case.1 As one Herbalife shareholder put it when I asked if he thinks HLF is a pyramid scheme, “in the colloquial sense, yes; in the legal sense, no.”2