Friday, March 6, 2009

Who’s Really Being Propped Up in the A.I.G. Bailout?

That's the New York Times' Joe Nocera on March 2. I thought I answered the question on Feb 26,
"We Must Save GS; MS; JPM: U.S. May Backstop AIG CDS":
Those banks are counterparties to a slug of the paper that AIG wrote. They did not do their due diligence on AIG. They were only in it for the money, to the tune of billions in profits.
Now the American taxpayer is going to go on the hook for another $300 Billion (notional).
This is getting old.
Here's Mr. Nocera's Executive Suite blog:
It is a simple enough question: who bought the credit-default swaps that American International Group sold during the housing bubble? And at this point — after Bailout No. 4, with the government handing A.I.G. another $30 billion to go with the previous $150 billion — you would think that the taxpayers would have the right to know that information. Is it Goldman? Royal Bank of Scotland? The Irish banks that are on the verge of collapse? What happened to all that transparency the new administration keeps talking about?>>>MORE
And here is the answer from the Federal Reserve via the WSJ's Real Time Economics blog:
In a Senate hearing, Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn delivered the news to lawmakers that Chairman Ben Bernanke has largely failed to give so far — that the Fed probably isn’t going to give up the names of American International Group Inc. counterparties.
“My judgment would be that giving the names would undermine the stability of the company,” Kohn said in a contentious Senate hearing....MORE
And here is one Senator's reaction, again via RTE:

...At a Senate Banking Committee hearing Thursday, Mr. Bunning lashed out at Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn for a slew of issues. Like many lawmakers, he was particularly troubled by the central bank’s reluctance to disclose the names of American International Group’s counterparties that were rescued from potential losses in the government’s bailout of the insurance giant.

“We have put in approximately $170 billion to $180 billion into one corporation. And you are telling us that the counterparties that got par for their bonds, or for whatever — the American taxpayer shouldn’t know who they are” Mr. Bunning said, growing more agitated. “And then you may come back to us and and ask for more money for more banks and more corporations. You will get the biggest ‘no’ you ever got. I will hold the bill. I will do anything possible to stop you from wasting the taxpayers’ money on a lost cause. And that’s what AIG is, it’s a lost cause.”

Yes, kids, that’s what one might call a filibuster threat.

Where’s the bottom line for taxpayers on AIG? Mr. Bunning asked. “Is it a trillion dollars? Is it two trillion dollars?”

“I can’t give you a number, Sen. Bunning,” said Mr. Kohn, who clearly wasn’t enjoying himself much at the hearing. “We have done with the Treasury what we can to stabilize the company,” he said, explaining the exit strategy of selling off AIG in pieces and repay the taxpayer.

Then this: “As our press release said, I cannot guarantee you” Mr. Kohn said, before getting cut off.

Who ever thought that would be the line to set someone off?

“I’m not interested in the press release, I’m interested in facts,” an incredulous Sen. Bunning shot back....MORE