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The New York Police Department (NYPD) appoints CIA veteran David Cohen to the newly-created post of deputy commissioner of intelligence. (New York City 1/24/2002) Cohen headed the CIA’s Directorate of Operations (DO) from 1995 to 1997. After leaving the agency, he joined AIG, the world’s largest insurance company, in November 2000. (National Underwriter Property and Casualty 1/15/2001) He also apparently headed the CIA’s office in New York, which was located in WTC7 before its collapse, at some point. The press release announcing his hiring says that “he also served as the senior CIA official in the New York area,” but provides no additional details. “Asked if he ever worked in the CIA’s office in the World Trade Center, he laughed and said, ‘You’re going to have to ask the CIA where their offices were,’” reports the New York Times. (Cooper 1/25/2002) NYPD also created a new post of deputy commissioner of counterterrorism, which will be filled by Michael Sheehan from 2003 to 2006. Cohen and Sheehan’s appointments are part of a huge expansion of NYPD’s intelligence-gathering and counterterrorism efforts, which will be the subject of numerous press reports. (Rashbaum and Miller 1/15/2004; Finnegan 7/25/2005)
The insurance corporation AIG makes a profit for the second quarter of the year totaling $4.28 billion, a rise of 34 percent. However, when the results are published in August, AIG will not announce any writedowns in the value of subprime housing assets, even though analysts have said the company could lose as much as $3.25 billion in a worst-case scenario, and AIG’s stock closes at $66.48. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
The profit of the insurance corporation AIG falls by 27 percent in the third quarter of 2007, to $3.09 billion. The decline is due to housing-related costs, including a $352 million fall in credit default swaps, which AIG sold to protect debt investors from losses. Despite the troubles, AIG says it is “highly unlikely” that it will be required to make payments on the derivatives. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
Robert Lewis, the chief risk officer at insurance corporation AIG, says that virtually all of the company’s subprime mortgage holdings are safe unless the US housing market crashes to “depression proportions.” (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
The insurance giant AIG makes the biggest quarterly loss in its 89-year history, $5.29 billion. This is primarily due to an $11.1 billion writedown of derivatives known as credit default swaps. The loss will be announced on February 28, 2008 (see February 28, 2008). (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
Following the announcement of poor results for the third quarter the day before (see July-September 2007), shares in the insurance corporation AIG fall to $56. Despite the problems, in a conference call the company says it is “comfortable” with businesses and investments tied to the US housing market. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
Six days after its shares hit a 52-week low (see November 8, 2007), the insurance corporation AIG announces that it will spend $8 billion on repurchasing stock. However, this program will be halted early next year (see February 28, 2008). (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
Martin Sullivan, chief executive officer of insurance giant AIG, says writedowns the company has been forced to make on assets linked to the US housing market are “manageable.” “The effectiveness of our risk management efforts will show through in our results,” he adds, sending shares up more than 4 percent to $58.15. Joseph Cassano, head of the company unit that sells derivatives known as credit default swaps, says the value of such contracts declined by $1.1 billion in the first two months of the fourth quarter. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008) Cassano’s statement is inaccurate, and AIG will later reveal the loss is close to $5 billion (see February 11, 2008).
Insurance giant AIG makes a loss of $7.81 billion for the first quarter of 2008. In the previous quarter, it had lost over $5 billion, which at that time was its worst ever result (see October-December 2007). The loss will be announced in May (see May 8, 2008). (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
The insurance corporation AIG submits a regulatory filing showing that its credit default swaps have declined four times more than previously announced (see December 5, 2007): by $4.88 billion in October and November of 2007. It also shows that AIG’s auditors have found a “material weakness” in the firm’s accounting for the contracts, and AIG does not know what they were worth at the end of 2007. The news means AIG shares suffer the worst one-day decline in two decades, falling 12 percent to $44.74. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
Following the announcement of a major loss for the fourth quarter of 2007 (see October-December 2007), the insurance corporation AIG halts a program to buy back shares it announced the previous year (see November 14, 2007). In addition, the loss prompts AIG to say for the first time that realized losses in derivatives known as credit default swaps could affect operations during a quarter. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
Joseph Cassano, head of the financial products unit at troubled insurance giant AIG, will leave the company, Chief Executive Officer Martin Sullivan says in a statement. Cassano’s unit was responsible for a recently announced $11.1 billion writedown due to credit default swaps (see October-December 2007), and he is stepping down with the company’s consent. Cassano had co-founded the unit in 1987 and built it into a business providing guarantees on more than $500 billion of assets at the end of 2007, including $61.4 billion in securities tied to subprime mortgages. At the same time, AIG says it has $14.5 billion to $19.5 billion in “excess capital.” (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
AIG makes a quarterly loss of $5.36 billion. This is its third such loss in a row, but is lower than the previous quarter’s loss (see January-March 2008). The loss will be announced on August 6. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
After announcing another record loss for the first quarter of 2008 (see January-March 2008), insurance giant AIG says it needs to raise $12.5 billion to protect against further possible writedowns due to problematic investments related to the US housing market. In addition, Standard and Poor’s and Fitch Ratings cut AIG’s credit rating after it announces the loss and the fact that it made more than $15 billion in first-quarter writedowns tied to credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
Maurice Greenberg, a former long-time chief executive officer of insurance giant AIG, says in a regulatory filing that the insurer is in “crisis.” This is because its shareholders have lost about $80 billion in the past year. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
At the annual shareholder meeting of the insurance giant AIG, Chief Executive Officer Martin Sullivan says he is “not discouraged,” despite the fact that the company has posted successive losses (see October-December 2007 and January-March 2008). Company chairman Robert Willumstad says the directors support the management, adding, “We think Martin’s the right guy.” Shares close at $39.44, a 46 percent drop over the past year. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
Martin Sullivan, chief executive officer of insurance giant AIG, says the company needs to raise a total of $20 billion to cover potential losses related to credit default swaps. Sullivan made a similar announcement two weeks earlier, but the potential problem was substantially lower then (see May 8, 2008). Shares fall to their lowest level since 1998, closing at $38.12. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
Insurance corporation AIG says the US Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department are probing the way it valued derivatives known as credit default swaps. AIG recently announced that it was having problems valuing the derivatives (see February 11, 2008). The company says it is cooperating with regulators, but shares in it fall 6.8 percent to $33.93. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
Martin Sullivan, chief executive officer of troubled insurance giant AIG, is fired and replaced by Robert Willumstad, formerly chairman of the company’s board of directors. Board member Stephen Bollenbach is also named lead independent director. The next day, Willumstad says “there will be no sacred cows” as he launches a companywide review of AIG’s operations. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008) However, he will only remain in the position for three months (see September 18, 2008).
Troubled insurance giant AIG makes a record quarterly loss of $24.47 billion. The loss is caused by writedowns on assets linked to subprime mortgages and capital losses. This is the worst loss it has ever made, coming hard on the heels of losses in the previous three quarters (see October-December 2007, January-March 2008, and April-June 2008). Over the four quarters, the combined loss totals $42.5 billion. The company will be in such bad shape that the government has to take it over by the end of the quarter (see September 16, 2008). The loss will be announced on November 10 (see November 10, 2008). (Reuters 4/17/2009)
The stock price of troubled insurer AIG falls 18 percent, closing at $23.84, following the announcement of a third straight quarterly loss the previous day (see April-June 2008). This is the largest fall since the company’s 1969 initial public offering, although this record will be broken next month (see September 9, 2008). In addition, Chief Executive Officer Robert Willumstad refuses to rule out raising more capital to supplement the $112.2 billion AIG held as of June 30. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
Shares in the insurance giant AIG fall 19 percent to $18.37. This is the company’s worst day of trading ever, beating the previous record set only a few weeks ago (see August 7, 2008). (Son and Holm 9/16/2008; Bloomberg 3/5/2009) The fall is caused by the news that the Korea Development Bank has backed away from a deal to purchase the ailing bank Lehman Brothers (see September 9, 2008), as this causes investors to become nervous about AIG’s ability to raise capital. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008)
The share price in the insurance giant AIG collapses to $4.76 amid fears over the company’s credit rating, which is subsequently cut by Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. This means that the company needs additional capital, and it is given permission by New York State to access $20 billion in its subsidiaries. In addition, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase work to prepare a potential $75 billion lifeline. (Son and Holm 9/16/2008; Bloomberg 3/5/2009) However, this is not enough, and the US government will be forced to seize control of AIG the next day (see September 16, 2008).
In an historic move, the federal government bails out insurance corporation AIG with an $85 billion loan, giving control of the firm to the US government. After resisting AIG’s overtures for an emergency loan or other intervention to prevent the insurer from falling into bankruptcy, the government decided AIG, like the now-defunct investment bank, Bear Stearns, was “too big to fail” (see March 15, 2008). The US government will lend up to $85 billion to AIG. In return, the government gets a 79.9 percent equity stake in warrants, called equity participation notes. The two-year loan will carry a LIBOR interest rate plus 8.5 percentage points. LIBOR, the London InterBank Offered Rate, is a common short-term lending benchmark. The bailout comes less than a week after the government allowed a large investment bank, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., to fold (see September 14, 2008). As part of the loan agreement, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson insists that AIG’s chief executive, Robert Willumstad, steps aside. Willumstad will be succeeded by Edward Liddy, the former head of insurer Allstate Corp (see September 18, 2008). (KARNITSCHNIG et al. 9/16/2008) Shares in AIG drop to $3.75 on the news. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009)
The insurance corporation AIG, which was recently bailed out by the US government (see September 16, 2008), makes $18.7 billion in payments to other world banks. The payments are related to credit default swaps, and are made in the three weeks after the bailout to institutions such as Goldman Sachs and Société Générale. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009)
Edward Liddy is approved by the board of insurance giant AIG as its chief executive officer. Liddy replaces former boss Robert Willumstad, who had only been in the job for a few months (see June 15, 2008). (Bloomberg 3/5/2009; Reuters 4/17/2009) Liddy tells employees he intends to repay a two-year Federal Reserve loan that recently bailed the company out (see September 16, 2008) sooner than scheduled. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009)
The recently bailed-out insurance company AIG makes the largest quarterly loss ever in the history of business. The $61.7 billion loss follows four other extremely high losses and is more than double what the insurer lost in the previous quarter (see October-December 2007, January-March 2008, April-June 2008, and July-September 2008). The result will be announced in March 2009 (see March 2, 2009). (Bloomberg 3/5/2009; Reuters 4/17/2009)
Edward Liddy, the recently installed chief executive officer of troubled insurer AIG, says the company soon plans to repay the bailout loan it received from the US Federal Reserve (see September 16, 2008). To do this, it intends to sell life insurance operations in the United States, Europe, Latin America, South Asia, and Japan. Liddy says AIG has been contacted by “numerous” potential bidders, adding, “The values that we will receive from the assets we intend to dispose will be more than enough to repay the Fed facility.” (Bloomberg 3/5/2009; Reuters 4/17/2009)
The troubled insurer AIG, which was recently bailed out by the US government (see September 16, 2008), is given more money. In the additional bailout, the government enables AIG to borrow an extra $37.8 billion, on top of the originally provided $85 billion. This addition is provided after customers pull out of AIG’s securities-lending program. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009)
The insurance giant AIG, which was recently bailed out by the US government (see September 16, 2008), is criticized over post-bailout spending, on news it spent $200,000 on hotel rooms and $23,000 on spa services after it got the government loan. In addition, AIG says that, as of two days previously, it had borrowed $70.3 billion from the government. (Reuters 4/17/2009)
New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo says he is investigating what he calls “unwarranted and outrageous” spending by insurance giant AIG, which was recently bailed out by the US government (see September 16, 2008). Cuomo says he is seeking a full accounting of bonuses, stock options, and other perks. He wants AIG to either recover or rescind the payments. (Reuters 4/17/2009)
Edward Liddy, chief executive officer of the recently bailed-out insurance corporation AIG (see September 16, 2008), says that the $122.8 billion already offered by the government “may not be enough” to stabilize the company. The size of the bailout and favorability of the terms will be increased the next month (see November 10, 2008). (Bloomberg 3/5/2009)
The troubled insurance giant AIG seeks a modification of a bailout it received from the US government in September (see September 16, 2008), according to reports. An additional loan following the initial bailout has already been made (see October 8, 2008). However, AIG now wants to alter the terms of the bailout, extending the duration and lowering the interest rate. Shares in the company close at $2.11. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009) AIG will obtain the modification within a few days (see November 10, 2008).
To facilitate AIG’s ability to complete its corporate restructuring, the New York Federal Reserve, as authorized by the US Federal Reserve, creates Maiden Lane II LLC and Maiden Lane III LLC to fund the purchase of certain multi-sector collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) from certain AIG Financial Products Corporation (AIGFP) counterparts. The Asset Portfolio purchase will be made in two stages, with Maiden Lane II LLC lending AIG $26.8 billion on November 25, 2008, and Maiden Lane III LLC lending AIGFP and its counterparties $2.5 billion on December 18, 2008 (see March, 2008). (Federal Reserve Bank of New York 11/10/2008)
The terms of the bailout given to troubled insurance giant AIG are modified, following calls from the insurer (see October 22, 2008 and November 7, 2008). The conditions of the government bailout were set in September (see September 16, 2008), but the interest rate is now lowered and the term is extended from two years to three. In addition, the rescue package grows to $150 billion, including a $60 billion loan, a $40 billion capital investment, and about $50 billion to buy mortgage-linked assets owned by AIG or guaranteed by it through credit default swaps. AIG also announces a record loss (see July-September 2008). (Bloomberg 3/5/2009)
Recently bailed-out insurance giant AIG sets the salary of its Chief Executive Officer Edward Liddy at $1 for 2008/9. It also freezes pay and scraps bonuses for its seven most senior executives. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009) In addition, 50 more AIG executives will be locked out of pay rises in 2009. (Reuters 4/17/2009)
Recently bailed-out insurer AIG agrees to sell a bank unit serving clients in Asia and the Middle East for about $250 million. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009) This is part of a program to sell business units in order to repay the government (see September 18, 2008).
The recently bailed-out insurer AIG and the US government say they have reached an agreement on toxic mortgage debt held by the company. The agreement will clear AIG of its obligations on about $53.5 billion in such debt. (Reuters 4/17/2009)
Edward Liddy, chief executive officer of recently bailed-out insurer AIG, pledges to repay taxpayers “every single penny we owe them.” The company currently has around $150 billion of the taxpayers’ money (see November 10, 2008). However, Liddy adds that the company will get the money by selling business units, and the timetable of such sales could change. AIG shares close at $1.73. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009)
Recently bailed-out insurer AIG agrees to sell one of its insurance subsidiaries, Hartford Steam Boiler, for $742 million. However, this is about a third less than it paid for the unit eight years ago. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009) The unit is purchased by the German reinsurer Munich Re, which wants to expand its US business. (Reuters 4/17/2009) This sale is part of a program to sell business units in order to repay AIG’s bailout loans to the government (see September 18, 2008).
The rating of a plane leasing unit owned by recently bailed-out insurer AIG is downgraded by Standard & Poor’s. This prompts the US government to cut lending to the business through a bailout program for commercial paper. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009)
Recently bailed-out insurer AIG says that it is looking for a buyer for a fund management unit. This is part of a program to sell business units in order to repay the government (see September 18, 2008). The fund manager operates 15 funds that had more than $12.4 billion in assets under management as of September 30, 2008. Bank of America and Merrill Lynch are helping AIG to find a buyer. (Reuters 4/17/2009)
Recently bailed-out insurer AIG says that it has sold interests in two contracts tied to natural gas and oil for $60.5 million. This brings the total amount raised through a program of sales to repay the bailout money to the government (see September 18, 2008) to $2.4 billion. AIG shares close at 85 cents. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009)
The latest government bailout gives Citigroup bond holders excellent terms and doesn’t provide the bank with new money. Instead, Citigroup cut expenses with the elimination of preferred stock dividends, and also converted shares into common equity at an above-market-value of $3.25, positioning itself to take the first hit if it encounters additional losses. Analysts are predicting that the company’s losses will continue to increase. Since the beginning of 2009, Citigroup’s stock has fallen 78 percent. “Debt holders could eventually be required to participate in further government-led restructuring actions,” Standard and Poor’s says. (Reilly 3/2/2009) Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit tells investors that increasing the bank’s “tangible” common equity from $29.7 billion to as much as $81 billion should “take confidence issues off the table,” about the bank’s loss absorption ability. The bank lost $27.7 billion in 2008, and is predicted to lose $1.24 billion during the first six months of 2009. “There’s no difference here,” says Christopher Whalen, co-founder of Institutional Risk Analytics, a Torrance, California risk-advisory firm. “It won’t fix revenue, and you’re still going to see loss rates.” Whalen says that the government’s efforts are mainly protecting other financial institutions and foreign goverments that are Citigroup bonds holders. “The taxpayer is funding the operating loss and protecting the bondholders,” Whalen notes. “The subsidy for the banks will become one of the biggest lines in Washington’s budget.”
Government Should Organize Citigroup, AIG Bondholders - Whalen also says it would be better if the government organized Citigroup and insurer American International Group Inc. bondholders, since the insurer received a $150 billion US bailout, and also made a deal with the government to convert some of its debt to equity. US government investment fell by more than 50 percent, and the government plans to convert up to $25 billion of its preferred stock to common shares, gaining a 36 percent stake in the bank. At Friday’s closing price of $1.50, government investment is worth approximately $11.5 billion. The bank itself has a stock market value of $8.2 billion as of market closing on February 27.
Analyst: Investors Should Avoid Citigroup Shares - Richard Ramsden, head of a group of analysts at Goldman Sachs Group, recommends that investors avoid investing in Citigroup shares: “It is unclear whether this is the last round of capital restructuring, which means that existing equity may be further diluted in the future.” The bank’s move to convert preferred shares to common equity led Moody’s Investors Service to adjust its senior debt rating for the bank from A3 to A2. Standard and Poor’s also changed its outlook on the bank’s debt from negative to stable. “Citi will face a tough credit cycle in the next two years, which will likely result in weak and volatile earnings,” S&P analyst Scott Sprinzen says. “We cannot rule out the possibility that further government support may prove necessary.” With the first two Citigroup rescue bailouts, the US Treasury bought $45 billion of preferred stock, and the Federal Reserve and FDIC guaranteed the bank against all but $29 billion of losses on a $301 billion portfolio of assets. With the third bailout, the Treasury, the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, and other preferred stockholders, agreed to take common stock at $3.25 a share, giving up dividends. The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Charles Rangel (D-NY), says: “The administration and the past administration have tried so many different ways that we can only hope and pray that this time they get it right. It seems like with the banks it is a never-ending thing.” (Harper 2/28/2009)
Third US Rescue Forces Citigroup Board Changes - The Obama administration demonstrated its willingness to force changes on executives at top banks that receive taxpayer-funded rescue packages by pressing Citigroup to reorganize its 15-member board with new, more independent members. The move sends a message to Wall Street that there are consequences when taxpayer dollars are used to save them. “The government is the new boss, and the new executive committee is no longer on Park Avenue,” says Michael Holland who, as chairman and founder of New York’s Holland & Co., manages nearly $4 billion in investments. (Katz and Keoun 3/2/2009)
On the same day AIG announces the biggest loss ever in corporate history (see October-November 2008), the bailout of the troubled insurer is again increased and its terms eased. First, the US Treasury and Federal Reserve announce a plan to spend up to $30 billion more on preferred shares. However, the Treasury says the dividend on preferred stock, previously 10 percent, might fall. In addition, the bailout’s terms and conditions are altered to give the insurer a billion-dollar-a-year break on interest and dividend payments. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009; Reuters 4/17/2009) The size of the bailout, initially $85 billion, has now more than doubled, and the terms have been eased repeatedly (see September 16, 2008, October 8, 2008, and November 10, 2008).
US Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke tells a Senate committee that having to rescue the insurer AIG made him “more angry” than any other episode during the financial crisis. “AIG exploited a huge gap in the regulatory system, there was no oversight of the financial products division,” Bernanke says. “This was a hedge fund basically that was attached to a large and stable insurance company.” In addition, on this day stock in AIG closes at 43 cents. (Bloomberg 3/5/2009)
Having received over $170 billion in taxpayer bailout funds in the last five months, troubled insurance giant American International Group (AIG) pays executives nearly $200 million in bonuses. The largest are bonus payouts that cover AIG Financial Products executives who sold risky credit default swap contracts that caused huge losses for the insurer (see September 16, 2008). Despite a request by US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for the insurance conglomerate to curtail future bonus pay—and AIG’s agreement to do so—the global insurer cuts bonus checks on Sunday, March 15, 2009, in order to meet a bonus payment agreement deadline. The Treasury Department has publicly acknowledged that the government does not have the legal authority to block current bonus payments, although AIG stated in early March that it suffered its largest corporate loss in history, when it reported fourth quarter 2008 losses of $61.7 billion.
Treasury Tried to Prevent Payments - An anonymous Obama administration official says that on March 11 Geithner called AIG Chairman Edward Liddy demanding that the CEO renegotiate the insurer’s present bonus structure. In a letter, Liddy informed Geithner that outside lawyers had advised AIG that the company could face lawsuits, should they not make the contractually obligated payments. “AIG’s hands are tied,” Liddy wrote, although acknowledging that, with the company’s fiduciary situation, he found it “distasteful and difficult” to approve and pay the bonuses. He wrote that the early 2008 bonus payments agreement was entered into prior to the company being forced last fall to obtain the first taxpayer bailout because of the company’s severe financial distress.
Some Monies Already Paid Out - A white paper generated by AIG asserted that the firm had already distributed $55 million in “retention pay” to nearly 400 AIG Financial Products employees. According to the white paper, the global entity “will labor to reduce 2009 bonus payment amounts,” trimming payouts by at least 30 percent this year. (Crutsinger 3/15/2009)
Troubled insurer AIG discloses that several US and European banks have been beneficiaries of the government’s bailout of the insurance company (see September 17-October 7, 2008). It announces that more than $90 billion was paid to various banks between the September bailout and the end of 2008. The banks include Goldman Sachs, Société Générale, Deutsche Bank, Barclays, Merrill Lynch, and Bank of America. Goldman Sachs, which received $12.9 billion between mid-September and the end of December—making it the largest beneficiary, will later say it did nothing wrong by accepting payments to close out trades before and after the insurer was rescued. (Reuters 4/17/2009)
US President Barack Obama attacks the payment of over $200 million in bonuses to top AIG employees (see March 15, 2009). As the company is being propped up by the government using public money (see September 16, 2008, October 8, 2008, and November 10, 2008), Obama calls the bonuses an “inappropriate use of taxpayer funds.” (Reuters 4/17/2009)
Edward Liddy, chief executive officer of troubled insurer AIG, asks employees to repay part of their bonuses. The bonuses were to be paid out in late 2008 and earlier this month, but there has been a public outcry over them, due to the billions of dollars taxpayers have spent rescuing the company (see September 16, 2008 and March 15, 2009). According to Liddy, employees receiving more than $100,000 in bonuses should repay at least half. (Reuters 4/17/2009)
The US House of Representatives passes a bill imposing a 90 percent tax on bonuses paid to AIG executives. The bonuses were set to be paid in December 2008 and earlier in the month, but there has been a public outcry against them, as the company had to be bailed out by the taxpayer six months ago (see September 16, 2008 and March 15, 2009). (Reuters 4/17/2009) However, President Obama soon challenges the bill’s legality, saying: “I think that as a general proposition, you don’t wanna be passing laws that are just targeting a handful of individuals. You wanna pass laws that have some broad applicability. And as a general proposition, I think you certainly don’t wanna use the tax code to punish people.” The Democratic leadership in the Senate then says that it will wait and see what happens, instead of immediately acting on the bill forwarded by the House of Representatives. This effectively shelves the bill, although several of the executives give their bonuses back anyway (see March 24, 2009). (Politics Daily 3/24/2009)
Fifteen of the top 20 beneficiaries of bonuses at troubled insurer AIG have given the payments back, says New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. The bonuses were to be paid out at the end of 2008 and earlier this month, but there was a public outcry over them as the taxpayer had spent about $180 bailing the company out (see September 16, 2008, March 15, 2009, March 18, 2009, and March 19, 2009). (Reuters 4/17/2009)
In a speech to the Tulsa Chamber of Commerce, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Thomas Hoenig declares that US banks’ ability to remain viable during a deeper recession—while undergoing federal government stress tests—demonstrates that most don’t need more taxpayer money. “Although the United States has several thousand banks, only 19 have more than $100 billion of assets,” Hoenig says. “After supervising authorities evaluate their condition, it is likely that few would require further government intervention.” Designed to demonstrate how much extra capital banks may need to survive a deeper economic downturn, the stress tests are to conclude by April 30, 2009, with the 19 biggest banks’ test results to be disseminated to President Barack Obama in meetings with his economic team. Hoenig reiterates his view that the government shouldn’t prop up failing financial institutions but take them over temporarily and wind them down, as with the 1984 takeover of Continental Illinois National Bank & Trust Co. “I encourage Congress to enact a new resolution process for systematically important firms,” he says. “There has been much talk lately about a new resolution process for systemically important firms that Congress could enact, and implement it as quickly as possible, but we do not have to wait for new authority. We can act immediately, using essentially the same steps we used for Continental. An extremely large firm that has failed would have to be temporarily operated as a conservatorship or a bridge organization and then reprivatized as quickly as is economically feasible. We cannot simply add more capital without a change in the firm’s ownership and management and expect different outcomes.” Hoenig declares that calling a firm “too big to fail” is a “misstatement” because a bank deemed insolvent “has failed.” “I believe that failure is an option,” he says. After the government’s fourth rescue of American International Group Inc. (AIG), Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke called for new powers to take over and sell off failing financial companies, and also called for stronger regulation to constrict risks that might endanger the financial system. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation has the authority to take over failing firms, and dispose of their assets, but no such authority exists for non-banking financial firms such as a hedge fund or AIG, which have extensive links throughout the banking system. During a Q&A after his speech, Hoenig tells the audience that the Fed must be prepared to make a timely removal of its stimulus to deter a period of high inflation that could be likened to that of the early 1980s. “You cannot wait until you know for sure the economy is recovering,” Hoenig says, adding that “employment growth tends to lag” and may not be the best indicator of recovery. “We will watch every indicator of data that suggests we have a recovery under way.” He also says that if the US manages its economy well, the US dollar should remain the world’s reserve currency. “It is a matter of running your economy properly,” he says. “When the US does that, and I think we will, I think we will remain the largest, most successful reserve currency on the face of the earth.” (Bloomberg 4/9/2009)
The insurer AIG, bailed out by the US government the previous year (see September 16, 2008), is in talks with the US Federal Reserve over extra credit, according to the Financial Times. The negotiations concern a $5 billion credit line that could be used to facilitate the sale of the company’s aircraft leasing business. (Reuters 4/17/2009)
The insurance company AIG sells its US auto insurance unit to Zurich Financial Services AG for $1.9 billion. This will make the Swiss company the third largest US personal line insurer. (Reuters 4/17/2009) This sale is part of an AIG program to sell business units in order to repay bailout loans to the government (see September 18, 2008).
A press investigation reveals that corporate interests are behind a supposedly grassroots effort to block Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor (see May 26, 2009) from ascending to the high court. Raw Story reporters Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane have learned that the Committee for Justice (CFJ), an organization they call “an astroturf group established by big business in July 2002 to create an appearance of popular support for President Bush’s judicial nominees,” is taking the lead in the effort to oppose the Sotomayor nomination. The head of the CFJ, Curt Levey, lambasted Sotomayor as an “intellectual lightweight” the day of her nomination (see May 26, 2009), and has made regular media appearances since then attacking her as racist and biased. CFJ was created in 2002 by Senator Trent Lott (R-MS), who recruited Washington lawyer C. Boyden Gray to “create a fake grassroots organization” to support conservative, pro-business jurists such as Charles Pickering and Chief Justice John Roberts. Gray, a former White House counsel, received the support of former President George H. W. Bush, Republican political adviser Karl Rove, and former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour. Gray has a strong history of creating “astroturf” organizations, which are lobbying and activist groups supposedly founded and led by ordinary citizens but that in fact are created and funded by large political and corporate interests. CFJ is one of the most successful of these creations, and has often been successful in placing pro-business judges on the bench. CFJ and other astroturf organizations founded or assisted by Gray have been funded by, among other firms, Wal-Mart, Home Depot, insurance giant AIG, and the Ameriquest Capital Corporation, receiving over $100 million since 1998. CFJ’s board includes Stan Anderson, the legal advisor to the Chamber of Commerce; John Engler, the president of the National Association of Manufacturers; former Republican governor Frank Keating, now president of the American Council of Life Insurers; and former Republican Senator Connie Mack. (Alexandrovna and Kane 6/5/2009)
Having received what the Obama administration calls “exceptional assistance,” American International Group (AIG), Citigroup, Bank of America, General Motors (GM), GMAC, Chrysler, and Chrysler Financial are now meeting with executive pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, and must submit 2009 pay plans for their top 25 executives. In turn, Feinberg must perform a 60-day assessment while working with the seven companies on their salary configurations. Plans for the other 75 executives of the seven corporations are due later. Exorbitant executive pay and bonuses has its critics, with many outraged that the companies are collecting taxpayer money only to pay out expensive bonuses during a massive recession. Others fear that the feds have insinuated themselves too deeply into private business affairs. Feinberg himself admits that his job has built-in conflicts. “Historically, the American people frown on the notion of government insinuating itself into the private marketplace,” he says in an interview, one day after his appointment. “My answer to those critics is I understand that concern, I share that concern, and the question is how do you strike a balance between that legitimate concern and the populist outrage at prior industry compensation practices?” The Obama administration has already seen and experienced taxpayers’ fury; Feinberg hopes to avoid such outrage. Corporations must prove to him that they are rewarding good performance and discouraging undue risk-taking. “We are not going to provide a running commentary on that process, but it’s clear that Mr. Feinberg has broad authority to make sure that compensation at those firms strikes an appropriate balance,” say US Treasury Department spokespersons, while noting that Feinberg can’t force companies to renege on contract obligations executed prior to February 12, 2009. However, this hasn’t prevented cries of foul play by critics upset over excessive government interference in private businesses. “No matter which way I turn, you’re facing criticism either from those who are appalled at what these companies did versus those who question the value of the government getting involved,” Feinberg says. The recently appointed executive compensation czar is used to dealing with contentious sides having served as compensation fund chairman for the families of victims of the September 11 attacks. (Jaffe 8/12/2009)
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