Possible Signs of Internal Financial Irregularities
After taking an $85 billion emergency loan from the Fed, and then another $38 billion, A.I.G isn’t being very specific on how it has already spent most of the money, according to Mary William Walsh‘s article in the New York Times:
A.I.G. has declined to provide a detailed account of how it has used the Fed’s money. The company said it could not provide more information ahead of its quarterly report, expected next week, the first under new management. The Fed releases a weekly figure, most recently showing that $90 billion of the $123 billion available has been drawn down.
A.I.G. has outlined only broad categories: some is being used to shore up its securities-lending program, some to make good on its guaranteed investment contracts, some to pay for day-to-day operations and — of perhaps greatest interest to watchdogs — tens of billions of dollars to post collateral with other financial institutions, as required by A.I.G.’s many derivatives contracts.
No information has been supplied yet about who these counterparties are, how much collateral they have received or what additional tripwires may require even more collateral if the housing market continues to slide.
Some industry observers say there must be undisclosed irregular accounting leading up to the bailout for so much of the $123 Billion lifeline to have been used up so fast.
“You don’t just suddenly lose $120 billion overnight,” said Donn Vickrey of Gradient Analytics, an independent securities research firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Mr. Vickrey says he believes A.I.G. must have already accumulated tens of billions of dollars worth of losses by mid-September, when it came close to collapse.
The article details indications of a sustained effort on the part of AIG top management to bury any details of an internal debate on how to value it’s derivatives contracts over the past few years. When a former SEC accountant was brought in due to previous irregularities,
He began to focus on the company’s accounting for its credit-default swaps and collided with Joseph Cassano, the head of the company’s financial products division … When the expert tried to revise A.I.G.’s method for measuring its swaps, he said that Mr. Cassano told him, “I have deliberately excluded you from the valuation because I was concerned that you would pollute the process.”
Astounding Burn Rate
In the roughly 6 weeks since AIG got the massive government loans they have already used up 90 of an available $123 billion at last reports.
A spokesman for the insurer, Nicholas J. Ashooh, said A.I.G. did not anticipate having to use the entire $38 billion facility. At midyear, A.I.G. had a shortfall of $15.6 billion in that program, which it says has grown to $18 billion. Another spokesman, Joe Norton, said the company was getting out of this business. Of the government’s original $85 billion line of credit, the company has drawn down about $72 billion. It must pay 8.5 percent interest on those funds.
For $59 billion of the $72 billion A.I.G. has used, the company has provided no breakdown. A block of it has been used for day-to-day operations, a broad category that raises eyebrows since the company has been tarnished by reports of expensive trips and bonuses for executives.
(emphasis, links added)
Possible Legal Violations
Rep. Barney Frank, House Financial Service Committee chairman said on Friday in remarks directed at Banks who had received a separate $125 Billion government buy-in, that financial institutions were “distorting” the government’s $700 billion economic bailout plan by using the money for bonuses, dividends and acquisitions. Frank said any uses of that money other than lending were “violation of the terms of the act.”
On 7 October Rep. Henry Waxman’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held hearings on the causes of AIG’s need for a bailout. (Full Hearing Video). At the hearing it came out that the week after AIG got an $85 Billion initial govenrment bailout, executives went on a retreat at a luxury resort, spending $443,343.71. Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said:
Have you heard of anything more outrageous – a week after taxpayers commit $85 billion dollars to rescue AIG, the company’s leading insurance executives spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at one of the most exclusive reports in the nation…Let me describe for some of you the charges that the shareholders, taxpayers, had to pay. AIG spent $200,000 dollars for hotel rooms. Almost $150,000 for catered banquets. AIG spent $23,000 at the hotel spa and another $1,400 at the salon. They were getting manicures, facials, pedicures and massages while American people were footing the bill. And they spent another $10,000 dollars for I don’t know what this is, leisure dining. Bars?
AIG Gets Another $25 Billion – Total: $144 Billion (so far…)
On Thursday 30 October, AIG said “it would be able to borrow up to $20.9 billion under the new program, raising its maximum available credit from the Fed to $144 billion under three different programs,” the New York Times reports. And there’s no sign yet that will be enough.
Edward M. Liddy, the insurance executive brought in by the government to restructure A.I.G., has already said that although he does not want to seek more money from the Fed, he may have to do so.
AIG’s unwillingness or inability to place a determinative valuation on their deriviative contracts has poisoned the credit market. As Tavakoli Structured Finance President Janet Tavakoli observes, “When investors don’t have full and honest information, they tend to sell everything, both the good and bad assets. … “It’s really bad for the markets. Things don’t heal until you take care of that.”
The NYT reports “Ms. Tavakoli said she thought that instead of pouring in more and more money, the Fed should bring A.I.G. together with all its derivatives counterparties and put a moratorium on the collateral calls.”
Tavakoli is an expert in derivative and similar financial products, and recently debated “mark to market” options on Bloomberg.
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Morningstar Analyst – May be better to let losses be realised
Bill Bergman, Senior Equity Analyst at Morningstar observed, “We may be better off in the long run letting the losses be realized and letting the people who took the risk bear the loss.”
– assembled from various reports by dcm