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AIG bailout is really for other big banks, like Goldman
Top U.S., European Banks Got $50 Billion in AIG Aid
By Serena Ng and Carrick Mollenkamp
The Wall Street Journal
Saturday, March 7, 2009
The beneficiaries of the government's bailout of American International Group Inc. include at least two dozen U.S. and foreign financial institutions that have been paid roughly $50 billion since the Federal Reserve first extended aid to the insurance giant.
Among those institutions are Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Germany's Deutsche Bank AG, each of which received roughly $6 billion in payments between mid-September and December 2008, according to a confidential document and people familiar with the matter.
Other banks that received large payouts from AIG late last year include Merrill Lynch, now part of Bank of America Corp., and French bank Societe Generale SA.
More than a dozen firms with smaller exposures to AIG also received payouts, including Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC, and HSBC Holdings PLC, according to the confidential document.
The names of all of AIG's derivative counterparties and the money they have received from taxpayers still isn't known, but The Wall Street Journal has identified some of them and is publishing others here for the first time.
... Lawmakers Want Names
The AIG bailout has become a political hot potato as the risk of losses to U.S. taxpayers rises. This past week legislators demanded that the Federal Reserve disclose names of financial firms that have received money from AIG, which Fed officials have described as too systemically important in the financial system to be allowed to fail.
In a Senate Banking Committee hearing in Washington on Thursday, Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn declined to identify AIG's trading partners. He said doing so would make people wary of doing business with AIG.
But Mr. Kohn told lawmakers he would take their requests to his colleagues. The Fed, through a new committee led by Mr. Kohn to discuss transparency concerns, is now weighing whether to disclose more details about the AIG transactions.
The Fed rescued AIG in September with an $85 billion credit line when investment losses and collateral demands from banks threatened to send the firm into bankruptcy court. A bankruptcy filing would have caused losses and problems for financial institutions and policyholders globally that were relying on AIG to insure them against losses.
Since September, the government has had to extend more aid to AIG as its woes have deepened; the rescue package now has swelled to more than $173 billion.
The government's rescue of AIG helped prevent its counterparties from incurring immediate losses on mortgage-backed securities and other assets they had insured through AIG. The bailout provided AIG with cash to pay the banks collateral on the money-losing trades; it also bought out underlying mortgage-linked securities, many of which are currently worth less than half their original value.
Banks and other financial companies were trading partners of AIG's financial-products unit, which operated more like a Wall Street trading firm than a conservative insurer. This AIG unit sold credit-default swaps, which acted like insurance on complex securities backed by mortgages. When the securities plunged in value last year, AIG was forced to post billions of dollars in collateral to counterparties to back up its promises to insure them against losses.
... More Problems
Now, other problems are popping up for AIG. The insurer generated a sizable business helping European banks lower the amount of regulatory capital required to cushion against losses on pools of assets such as mortgages and corporate debt. It did this by writing swaps that effectively insured those assets.
Values of some of those assets are declining too, forcing AIG to also post collateral against those positions. And if the portfolios incur losses, AIG will have to compensate the banks.
AIG had seen this business as a relatively safe bet for the company and its investors. The structures were designed to allow European banks to shuck aside high capital costs. A change in capital rules has meant that the AIG protection no longer meets regulatory requirements.
The concern has been that if AIG defaulted, banks that made use of the insurer's business to reduce their regulatory capital, most of which were headquartered in Europe, would have been forced to bring $300 billion of assets back onto their balance sheets, according to a Merrill report.
-- Liam Pleven and Sudeep Reddy contributed to this article.
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