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Archive for March 20th, 2009

Was Eliot Spitzer Taken Out Because He Was Going to Bust AIG?

Posted by Melina Ripcoco, Brilliant at Breakfast at 3:39 PM on March 19, 2009.

America is known for its great second acts, and we may be witnessing the curtain rising on Spitzer’s.

Eliot Spitzer is back and he’s talking. The thought of this, no doubt, brings a small shiver to the boardrooms of some of the perps walking around trying to figure out how to hide the money this week. Today Edward Liddy testified that there have been death threats made to or about executives who received bonuses, so no names will be put on the record, but these anonymous players must know that the jig is up in the land of easy-money. Isn’t what to do a no-brainer for these great Americans?

Spitzer may be as “disgraced” as any anonymous sex loving Republican loser, but America is known for its great second acts, and we may be witnessing the curtain rising on Spitzer’s.

Today in Slate Eliot Spitzer has a short op-ed that speaks volumes about what is going on, and indirectly, if you follow the money, what happened to him. Plainly stated, Spitzer brings the AIG Ponzi Scheme one step closer to the revered establishment when he explains how the bailout money was funneled straight into the top players, with Goldman Sachs being the name that comes up again and again. These top players already got bailout money, and Goldman is looking at zero losses at this point, while regular Americans are being asked to make concessions or just plain losing everything. here are the biggest financial entities in the world, making billions on what appears to have been nothing but air traded back and forth, and having gutted the American people they are walking away with 100% return to their stockholders. In return AIG seems to think that its appropriate to pay themselves bonuses with the leftover funds. This leaves AIG still a wobbly shell with no plan of how to go forward, and the threat of the collapse of all of the world’s financial markets still up in the air. So, what was all that bailout money for? Apparently to make sure that no one at Goldman or the other few top firms in the hand-out-line lost anything!

The relationship between AIG and Goldman goes back long enough that one would think that Goldman would know, having bought so much of this “insurance” or whatever it was, whether the “products” were …er…real or feasible at all. Indeed, Goldman and AIG almost merged a few years ago, but Spitzer notes that the unknown black hole of AIG’s business practices were probably what prevented it. Still, that didn’t stop the incestuous dealings; it almost makes one think that this whole thing was a setup.

This is country that Spitzer is familiar with; he has been a terrible liability to entities that, under the Bush administration, were allowed to literally gut the country and its citizens. All of this seems to have been part of the Bush Administration’s own Ponzi Scheme, which figured that the illusion of an ownership society, terrified of the “terraism” and steeped in the me, me, me, culture would look the other way while they finished clearing out the vault. Beyond that, it’s clear that the media hyped housing bubble encouraged the house flip mentality and the idea that anyone could be rich. The idea of the lottery dropping on our own heads made us more protective of the rich, because we might one day be one….or look, we could be one with no money down, if we could just balance that on this, and flip that house!!

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The Rise And Fall Of AIG’s Financial Products Unit

As we delve into the back-story behind the collapse of AIG, we thought it might be useful to lay out some key factual information about the firm’s Financial Products unit, known as AIGFP, whose disastrous credit default swaps brought the company to its knees. How and when did AIG Financial Products get started? Who ran it, and from where? How did it get into credit default swaps, and what exactly are they, anyway? And how did this group of derivatives traders eventually wind up bringing down one of the most admired financial firms in the world?

So here’s a rundown of some of the key developments in AIGFP’s tumultuous history — many gleaned from a superb three-part December 2008 Washington Post series on the unit (parts 1, 2, and 3):
From a Humble Start, A Swift Rise

– AIGFP was founded on January 27, 1987, when three Drexel Burnham Lambert traders, led by finance scholar Howard Sosin, convinced AIG CEO Hank Greenberg to branch out from his core insurance business by creating a division focused on complex derivatives trades that took advantage of AIG’s AAA credit rating.

– In addition to his two partners, Randy Rackson and Barry Goldman, Sosin brought 10 other staffers from DBL with him — including future AIGFP CEO Joseph Cassano. The team of 13 set to work in a windowless makeshift room, at first without full-size desks and chairs, in an accounting office on Third Avenue. AIGFP’s first significant deal, made in July 1987, was a $1 billion interest-rate swap with the Italian government.

– In its first 6 month of existence, the unit earned more than $60 million. Under the agreement that Greenberg and Sosin had signed, 38 percent of that went immediately to AIGFP, with the remaining 62 percent going to AIG proper. Crucially, the agreement also called for AIGFP received its profits up front, even though its deals generally took years to play out. AIG itself, not AIGFP, would be on the hook down the road if things went wrong. This arrangement would be modified, but only partially, after Sosin left in 1993.

MORE HERE

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