The Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi uses a paper bag to illustrate exactly how the sub-prime mortgage scam worked, and how we're still on the hook for the next catastrophe. [more inside]
TARP is winding down...bring on the lawsuits. Within the next week, the US government is set to sue a dozen banks for billions in losses caused by those banks' misrepresenting the risks of mortgage-backed securities. This is in addition to numerous State Attorneys General suing the banks for failing to reach an agreement in foreclosure abuses. Insurance giant AIG will also be suing BofA to recoup losses over the mortgage bonds. BofA had also agreed to a settlement of $8.5 billion to cover losses from soured mortgage debt issued through Countrywide. Deutsche Bank is suing WaMu. Goldman Sachs already settled with the SEC for $500 million for their fraud and have been sued by othersseeking to recover losses. [more inside]
Is the SEC Covering Up Wall Street Crimes? "A whistleblower claims that over the past two decades, the agency has destroyed records of thousands of investigations, whitewashing the files of some of the nation's worst financial criminals."
September 18, 2008 - Lehman Brothers had filed for bankruptcy four days earlier and the Federal Reserve had authorized the New York Fed to lend up to $85 billion to insurance giant AIG. That afternoon, Nancy Pelosi called Henry Paulson to ask for a full briefing the next morning. "They said, 'That will be too late. That will be too late. Tomorrow morning, 9 o'clock will be too late.' ... 'We were not allowed to tell Congress, but since you called, we're going to answer your questions.'" The Bush administration prohibited its own top officials from briefing Congress on the financial crisis.
Today, while testifying for only the second time on Capitol Hill since the financial crisis began, [former Fed chairman] Alan Greenspan said the Fed closely monitored the subprime market [...]"I was right 70% of the time, but I was wrong 30% of the time, and there were an awful lot of mistakes in 21 years...". But Greenspan's defense of his record today rang hollow to many seasoned observers, if not downright deceitful.
"The reality is that the post-bailout era in which Goldman [Sachs] thrived has turned out to be a chaotic frenzy of high-stakes con-artistry, with taxpayers and clients bilked out of billions using a dizzying array of old-school hustles that, but for their ponderous complexity, would have fit well in slick grifter movies like The Sting and Matchstick Men. There's even a term in con-man lingo for what some of the banks are doing right now, with all their cosmetic gestures of scaling back bonuses and giving to charities. In the grifter world, calming down a mark so he doesn't call the cops is known as the "Cool Off.""
"Early in the Iraq War, it cost taxpayers $100,000 per year to insure a civilian contractor who was paid $100,000 per year. So the insurance was the same amount as the salary." "Another very peculiar part of this particular story is that because of another law, the U.S. actually reimburses the insurance companies for any civilians who are injured in a combat situation. So at the very end, the insurance company will ultimately submit the bill to the U.S. government, and they will get paid back for any injury involving a combat wound." "Let me ask a stupid question: What is the point of the insurance company if taxpayers are paying for the premium and then also paying for the medical bill?" [more inside]
Jan 7: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then led by Timothy Geithner, told American International Group Inc. to withhold details from the public about the bailed-out insurer’s payments to banks during the depths of the financial crisis, e-mails between the company and its regulator show.
Michael Lewis going after Joseph Cassano Trying to find out what happened to the AIG guys who crashed the system. [more inside]
No, to us what the fraud Bernard Madoff is to individual investors, AIG is to the global financial community. [via] [more inside]
Letter from an AIG bonus recipient - The resignation letter of an AIG executive explaining his point of view on the bonus furor. The proverbial other side of the story.
Bus tours of the houses of AIG executives, who are mostly not home or hiding behind security. [more inside]
Matt Taibbifilter: Among other things, the GAO report noted that the entire OTS had only one insurance specialist on staff — and this despite the fact that it was the primary regulator for the world's largest insurer! This week's MeFi stories have generally failed to explain the reasoning that caused the recession, even though Jon Stewart was basically on the mark. Now, Rolling Stone's only reporter lays it all out The Big Takeover, a typical combination of zealous snark and the overlooked, damning facts needed to clear up a ridiculously complicated story.
AIG corporate memo, leaked to Gawker, advises employees on how not to fall victim to the populist horde calling for their heads.
On the heels of news about $165 million to be paid as bonuses to AIG employees, the company has released a list of "the counterparties involved in credit default swaps and other transactions in which bailout funds were used to meet A.I.G. obligations." In other words, where your bailout money went. More background here.
Washington Post reports that the American International Group, which has received more than $170 billion in taxpayer bailout money from the Treasury and Federal Reserve, plans to pay about $165 million in bonuses by Sunday to executives in the same business unit that brought the company to the brink of collapse last year. The payments to A.I.G.’s financial products unit are in addition to $121 million in previously scheduled bonuses.
In the 20 years that we've published our annual list,
we've covered corporate villains, scoundrels, criminals and miscreants. We've reported on some really bad stuff - from Exxon's Valdez spill to Union Carbide and Dow's effort to avoid responsibility for the Bhopal disaster; from oil companies coddling dictators (including Chevron and CNPC, both profiled this year) to a bank (Riggs) providing financial services for Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet; from oil and auto companies threatening the future of the planet by blocking efforts to address climate change to duplicitous tobacco companies marketing cigarettes around the world by associating their product with images of freedom, sports, youthful energy and good health. But we've never had a year like 2008.( via ). [more inside]
After an historic near-collapse (p), a federal bailout to the tune of $85,000,000,000, a second federal bailout to the tune of $37,800,000,000 and one hell of a party (p), the news on A.I.G. just keeps getting better. Now: Fed arbitrage! Paying down a 9% taxpayer loan with a 2% taxpayer loan? Genius!
Last month (Sept. 16, 2008) the American taxpayers bailed out insurance giant American International Group (AIG) to the tune of $85 billion dollars. So, asked "what ya' goin' do now after the bailout?" top executives said "party it up at the St. Regis Resort Monarch Beach (Dana Point, CA) for a week (September 22 - 30, 2008). Total costs? Invoice: $443,343.71. "$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." Said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD): "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?"
How AIG fell apart is a good article giving an overview of Credit Default Swaps (CDSs) and the role they played in AIG's struggle. CDS issues are a crisis that quite a few saw coming just a few months ago and one that was discussed here then, although AIG was thought be a special "safe" case among CDS issuers. Indeed it now seems that AIG's particular problem was that it had failed to hedge the CDSs they issued with CDSs acquired from other institutions, presumably on the premise that they were insuring assets too safe to fail.
The Fed has decided to bail out A.I.G. with an $85 billion dollar loan deal, which will result in 80% of the company being owned by the government.
Lehman Brothers files for liquidation. After an all weekend emergency meeting at the New York Fed, no rescue, and LEH is gone. AIG announcing restructuring tomorrow. Bank of America in merger talks with Merrill Lynch, offering to buy the firm outright at $29/share, which values the 94 year old firm at a paltry $40 billion. The futures market say that stocks are not happy.