Maiden Lane II

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 »

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?

For the first one, Bloomberg says: Read more »