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Big Surprise (not) – AIG “bailout” was phony all along

After $182 billion taxpayer rescue, is AIG on the verge of collapse?

by Peter Cohan

You may remember American International Group (AIG). The U.S. government gave it $182 billion of taxpayer money last fall in exchange for a 78 percent stake. Of that money, $165 million went for bonuses to a handful of people in its Financial Products Group (FPG), which sold Credit Default Swaps (CDSs) on which AIG lacked the capital to make good. And $200 million more is slated for those good folks in 2009.

Another $12.9 billion of our taxpayer money went to Goldman Sachs Group (GS) so AIG could pay Goldman 100 cents on the dollar for its CDSs. Hank Paulson wanted to keep the names of Goldman and the other recipients secret — since so many of them were foreign banks, but the information leaked out in March 2009 after Paulson left office.

Now, thanks to some solid reporting in The New York Times, it looks like the rot at AIG is not limited to FPG. While AIG officials have claimed that its problems were isolated to FPG, the reality is that AIG seems to have been running something akin to a shell game of massive proportions. Its shell game version took the form of selling insurance and assigning the resultant risks among its 71 different North American insurance companies.

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