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 »
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 »
Remember September 2008? Remember how American International Group was doing in September 2008? Kind of not so hot? Maybe needed the government to front it some cash to the tune of $85 billion? Maybe needed even more money after that, even though they swore they just needed that one hit, just to get them by? Maybe would’ve been- how to say this?- fucked, if not thrown a bone? Well Hank Greenberg’s been thinking about September 2008, for a while now, and what he’s concluded is that as an AIG shareholder, he was screwed, big time. And, the window of opportunity for apologies being long closed, he figures the only way he can be made to feel better about the situation is for the US to cough up $25 billion. At least. Read more »