From an editorial Thursday in the Chicago Tribune:
The directors of insurance giant American International Group wisely decided Wednesday not to join a lawsuit that seeks billions of dollars from taxpayers. Thats a relief. The notion of AIG suing over its $182 billion government rescue package was outrageous. Even if AIG prevailed on the legal argument, it would have trashed whatever public standing it still has.
Most people know the sorry saga of AIG. The rogue financial giant took enormous risks. It failed to properly manage those risks. When the financial crisis hit in 2008 and AIG teetered, the government quickly stepped in because AIG was deemed too big to fail. The repercussions would have shocked the world economy. So U.S. taxpayers shouldered the burden of a bailout.
AIG requested government help. The terms it received were tough the government took roughly 80 percent of the companys equity and charged a 14.5 percent interest rate on the initial loan.
Too tough? Yes, according to former AIG Chief Executive Maurice Hank Greenberg, who is the driving force behind the lawsuit.
Greenberg testified before Congress in 2009 that the government should have bailed out AIG, but on more advantageous terms for shareholders like him. To Greenberg, the ideal option would have been to let AIGs financial units go bankrupt, but only after the U.S. Federal Reserve had guaranteed them.
AIGs financial products were failing because of the companys mismanagement which Greenberg does not dispute. Instead of the government taking over the company, Greenberg testified, the central bank could have restored its lost liquidity by pledging the full faith and credit of the United States. If the Fed had guaranteed AIG, promising to make good on every possible loss, then the rest of the bailout might have been unnecessary.
That issue is at the heart of the lawsuit. The federal loans to AIG have been repaid with interest. The government made a $22 billion profit from its rescue. Greenberg wants that money and then some: Who would be on the hook? Taxpayers.
Whats the saying, marry in haste, repent at leisure? The AIG bailout was concocted in a rush because of the swiftly approaching economic calamity. The AIG board agreed to the terms.
Its fortunate that the current board of AIG has decided not to join this lawsuit because it reminds all the world that greed and arrogance are alive and well.
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