ABC reports:

An AIG report to the Treasury Department last month warned that if the government didn’t come to its rescue again, its collapse would trigger a “chain reaction of enormous proportions” that would “bankrupt the entire system” and make it impossible for AIG to repay the billions it already owed the U.S. government. Four days later, AIG was given $30 billion in federal aid on top of the $130 billion it had already received . . .

The draft, obtained by ABC News, was marked “strictly confidential.” It said, “The failure of AIG would cause turmoil in the U.S. economy and global markets and have multiple and potentially catastrophic unforeseen consequences.”

As I wrote in Bailout Nation, almost everytime we hear the phrase “Systemic Risk,” we get our pockets picked.  Systemic risk has become a buzzword — just the latest scare tactic. It is astonishing.

Full report below . . .


Aig Systemic 090309


AIG Warned of ‘Crisis’ if Government Didn’t Help
Draft, Obtained by ABC News, Dated Four Days Before Bailout
ABC, March 9, 2009

AIG Told U.S. Failure May Cripple Banks, Money Funds
Hugh Son and Scott Lanman
Bloomberg, March 9 2009

Category: Bailouts, Derivatives

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

52 Responses to “AIG: Is the Risk Systemic?”

  1. johnbougearel says:

    This is crap! Really, where does AIG get off? As General DeGaulle once said, “The graveyards are full of irreplaceable people.” Well guess what? So are individual companies. For example, the Dow Jones index is constantly replacing individual companies from its index. Only Phillip Morris remains in there from 1929. Most of the other companies have all died ~ gone Bye-Bye. It is high time we take a stand and say Buh-Bye, cya, wouldn’t want to be ya, get the hell out of my life and don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out!
    Truly we need lawmakers with some balls. And soon. Shelby and Bunning are about the only two lawmakers I know of off the top of my head that do not suffer from regulatory capture and still serve the public interest rather than private interests of criminal banksters and insurance companies.

    The litany of threats from AIG grew today by telling regulators their collapse could “cripple” money market funds. Ooh, boo-hoo! Are they fully unaware that the Fed has backstopped the money mkt funds with unlimited liquidity through its myriad of lending facilities? No, AIG knows this, so this is just more lies and poppycock from criminal intent.

  2. Jdamon33 says:

    Since no one has demanded we find out who owns these CDS’s that are being paid off, how are we to know what the consequences of an AIG bankruptcy would be? Also, how many pension funds have investments/insurance thorugh AIG? This would be the mother of all domino effects and unless you really know how things will hold up, how can you chance it?

  3. Joseph T says:

    The investment banks that encouraged the government backstop of AIG should be the ones who pay back any lost taxpayer money in the future. No free lunch.

  4. tagyoureit says:

    U.S. tax payers paying ‘protection money’ to AIG, OR ELSE! I know, I’ve been watching too many gangster movies on TV.

  5. That’s rich…a fucking insurance company threatening the United States of America with Armageddon. Exactly when did our leaders become such big pussies?

  6. johnbougearel says:

    In AIG’s 21 page presentation dated Feb 26 (this newsleak is late getting to us! quelle suprise!) they had the gall to say that

    “What happens to AIG has the potential to trigger a cascading set of further failures which cannot be stopped except by extraordinary means. Insurance is the oxygen of the free enterprise system. Without the promise of protection against life’s adversities, the fundamentals of capitalism are undermined.”

    Did you catch that? Nothing but hyperbole and delusions of grandeur. They are the so-called “oxygen of the free enterprise system.” Are these guys some sort of modern day Rip Van Winkle? Free enterprise is dead, so long live free enterprise right? Wrong, there is no succession rights here. AIG is nothing but deadly carbon monoxide to both free enterprise and the new socialist model that has supplanted capitalism. Has AIG never heard of folks and companies self-insuring themselves against life’s adversities? AIG and other insurance companies are not the only way to insure against life’s adversities. In fact, insurance companies are about the worst way to insure against life’s adversities, since they do everything in their power to never pay a claim. Insurance companies have exceeded their role, and function in society in everything they do. As for making good on their promises, they are for crap.

    AIG went on to whine in their presentation: “it is questionable whether the economy could tolerate another shock to the system that a failure of AIG would produce…treasury borrowing costs could rise and the agency would face doubts about the ability of the US to support its banking system.” The nerve of them fear-mongering bitches! This is counterfactual history. It is complete bullshit. AIG presents nothing more than a genocidal risk to the American taxpayer.

    It’s like asking “what would have happened had Hitler drunk coffee instead of tea on the afternoon he committed suicide?” We don’t flipping care. Just go hang yourself from the end of a long rope and we will all be much better off!

  7. Winston Munn says:

    If the financial system is so corrupted that the demise of a single insurance company can cause its collapse, what is the point in saving it?

  8. xnycpdx says:

    i don’t know which is scarier – aig’s threats, or the fact that shelby and bunning were mentioned in a non-’dumb as rocks and crazier than a bedbug’ way…

  9. try2bamused says:

    AIG is finished, done, kaput. It is a black hole for our money. It cannot be saved. It will fail anyway. And when it does, if the sky-is-falling crowd is right, then we’ll get systemic failure. If they’re wrong, or they’re lying, or they’re using threats to extort taxpayer funds, then when they fail we will not have system failure.

    Either way, life goes on.

    Just without THEM.

    So let’s their bluff already!

  10. JohnDoe says:

    Yogi Berra said “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is”. In theory telling AIG to scram and allowing it to go bust is great. But would it really work out in practice? Could the counterparties really survive without massive intervention by the government (even more so than the current bailouts of AIG).

  11. Marcus Aurelius says:

    It’s systemic, anyway. AIG is bluffing/hostage-taking. Fuck ‘em – let’s see what systemic damage beyond what we’re experiencing looks like. How much more can the average person lose?

    Here’s what we need to tell AIG:

  12. Transor Z says:

    Mandatory Corporate Life Insurance for publicly traded companies.

    Corporate Life insurance companies would send auditors to review the books, conduct risk-assessment, etc. called “Independent Financial Examinations.” Analyze the company’s succession planning, long-term planning.

    Eliminate Chapter 11. When a company fails, the policy kicks in. (Though the company couldn’t “suicide” in the first couple of years to scam a payout.)

    Oh — and the other thing is that, in order to certify genuine corporate death, all of the corporate officers and board members of the deceased corporation will of course have to be shot.

    The new corporate business model would protect creditors, eliminate a lot of “systemic risk” and create a nice incentive to make sure that the interests of top execs and board members coincide with those of shareholders and employees.

  13. tenaciousd says:

    Owe the fed $130 million, the fed own you. Owe the fed $130 billion, you own the fed.

  14. sandi says:

    This can’t be the basis for Treasury giving billions more to AIG. This memo doesn’t remotely include any semblance of an analysis as to the extent of their exposure to losses on bad underlying assets and how they might impact their other businesses (other than a “run on the bank” — well, how do they propose to mitigate that risk??).

    How could the gov’t not have taken 100% control of this company?

  15. Lugnut says:

    As been mentioned elsewheres before (so I take no credit), the standing theory regarding counterparty disclosure is this: it does next to no good by iteslf to know that Really Large French Brank (RLFB) is a counterparty to AIG, as chances are they are just adding a structural mechanism to providing those CDS to their own end client (who is the party with the actual counter party risk, not RLFB).

    IF that client of RLFB who bought those CDS’ is, oh say, the pension fund for the French government, then disclosing that to the public becomes a real sticky wicket for Mr Geitner. Can/should a US Treasury secretary throw the French under the bus just to satisfy the yelling US Congress-critters seeking transparency? When the French realize their pension is under water due to CDS shortfalls with AIG investments, and no that check they are expecting at the end of month may not be coming, then you can expect cars to burn in Paris. Se le guerre’. Thats Turbo Timmy’s lot in life at the moment.

    So yes, it is kinda complex, and its easy to say that AIG should die (and it should), but the law of unintended consequences becomes more prevelent, especially when you can predict with a fiar amount of certainty what some of those chain reactions may be.

    Tough to say what the end game will be, so in the interim, we’ll be content with looting the Treasury to prop this mess up and devalue the dollar a bit more with another several billion in future tax obligations.

    back to work…..

  16. gnomic says:

    This should be called Taxpayer Extortion as they extort the systemic risks to shakedown American taxpayers.

    What this fails to explain is why companies will fail if AIG fails. Companies will fail only if the risk materializes. The US should liquidate AIG (and its management in the harshes sense of the word) and set up a structure for companies to swap risk if they choose to do so. They can pay for it wish the money from AIG Insurance.

  17. Marcus Aurelius Says:

    March 9th, 2009 at 2:25 pm
    It’s systemic, anyway. AIG is bluffing/hostage-taking. Fuck ‘em – let’s see what systemic damage beyond what we’re experiencing looks like. How much more can the average person lose?


    If freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose…then we’re almost there. If we save the system, the system destroys us. If we let if fail, the system’s failure destroys us (perhaps). I’d say roll the dice, either way, we ain’t coming away with anything left to worry about.

  18. barry3f says:

    so, i’m in traveling and being forced to watch soccer (the only sport available on the telee). guess who is the major sponsor of manchester united? AIG takes our bailout money and puts in into an english futbol team. egads. aloha

  19. constantnormal says:

    “… obtained by ABC News”

    Color me suspicious — was it “obtained” by email (cc’d to: US Treasury, ABC News) or FedEx? This smells suspiciously like a planted leak, designed to sell the MSM on the desirability of maintaining the infinite pipeline of bailout money …

    Amazingly, the document provides the essential outline of how to resolve the “AIG Problem”, and why. For instance, if one separates AIG into the “Good Insurance Company” and the “Bad Hedge Fund”, the bulk of the employees stay with the “Good” side, and only a small number with the “Bad”. So, splitting the company into 2 parts, dividing the ownership of the debts and assets appropriately, we can unwind the CDS and derivatives business by voiding the contracts and returning the amounts paid in by the purchasers for those contracts, proportioned according to the assets available and what the purchasers have paid in to date on those contracts.

    The “Good” side of AIG lives on and the taxpayers stand some chance of being able to eventually recover their investment, as the 80% ownership rises in value and can be sold back into public (not nationalized) ownership over time, while the “Bad” side implodes and the Fed/FDIC is managing damage control, providing panic liquidity where necessary. We might even manage to get rid of a few bad banks in the deal.

    I suspect the purchasers of the CDS would get back more than they would this way than in any other way — except for Uncle Sugar to step in and make the ridiculous bets good, on the backs of the taxpayer. But a dime-on-the-dollar payout (similar to Lehman Brothers) seems fair to me, for scoundrels involved in unregulated gambling and fraud (regulated gambling would be the kind that one finds in Las Vegas, where the losses are much more restricted).

  20. Keith D. says:

    Extortion of the US Government at it’s finest.

    The only thing I can read from this is that AIG, without the help of the US Goverment, couldn’t repay their CDS obligations… so? Sorry about your luck, we have no money so we can’t pay your CDS contracts.

  21. cgomis says:

    A political legacy of shouting fire with fabricated documents.

    Bush is to Weapons of Mass Destruction as Obama is to Systemic Risk

  22. wnsrfr says:

    Step 1: Split AIG into the “real” insurance companies and the “fake” derivatives gambling unit, which the U.S. will then own based on all the infusions of cash so far. All upper-executives at AIG that were above the gambling unit go with it.

    Step 2: Fire all employees of the gambling unit immediately with no golden parachutes.

    Step 3: Contact all counter-parties and inform them that the gambling unit of AIG is not only bankrupt but has no assets what-so-ever for them to claim with their handy rights to all assets. If in the case the French Pension fund or other socially important entity needs money, lend it to them with terms balanced against the systemic risk the entity represents.

  23. super_trooper says:

    What’s the systemic risk of “saving” the insurance part and only let the hedge fund part die out?
    Why would the Treasury read a report generated by AIG? Maybe AIG has a self interest in saving itself……..

  24. arcticpup says:

    Financial armagedonn… seems like it today… saved… by $30 billion more dollars. How much more is going to be required next week???

    AIG… kinda too big too fail… because it has CDS, and other funny alpha-financial stuff… that affects other countries finances… Citi-bank… can’t fail… because a certain Saudi prince… owes a shitload of penny stocks… and he might decided to ship oil… Can’t understand… why though GM… is still allowed to operate… why not let it fail too…

    but… Lehman bros… can fail… smaller banks can fail… and the world moves on… even a skyscraper in New York could be knocked down… and the world still spins and moves forward… why not let them fail… enough with the chicken little… sky is failing gloom. Let them fall… we’ll pick up the pieces and move forward… to build a better system.

  25. wnsrfr says:

    super_trooper–AIG is an aggregation of many insurance companies…so yes, “it” wants to save “itself” but it really isn’t an it as much as it is a group of its, most of them pretty innocent…

    I want to see the guilty ones fired, the guilty unit wiped-out and the innocent operating companies preserved.

    Interestingly enough, it was the poor insurance sales people in the “good” side of the business that were pilloried for attending their annual sales award conference after the first bail-out. If you’ve ever worked in a big sales organization, you would know how much of a psychological carrot these end of year “clubs” are…and how pissed-off you would be to be lumped in with some idiots in a some completely different part of your company that screwed the pooch so badly.

  26. bogwad_seigneur (the smelly one) says:


    Can/should a US Treasury secretary throw the French under the bus just to satisfy the yelling US Congress-critters seeking transparency?

    1. Yes he can
    2. Yes he should
    3. The sooner the better. It’s time someone, somewhere threw the French under a bus.

    When the French realize their pension is under water due to CDS shortfalls with AIG investments, and no that check they are expecting at the end of month may not be coming, then you can expect cars to burn in Paris. Se le guerre’.

    C’est la guerre indeed. Do we actually give a rats ass if cars burn in Paris? That lot take to the streets and start burning shit if their croissants go up a couple of centimes in price (oops, sorry, Eurocents) so wtf is the difference? At least this time – arguably – they’d have a reasonably legitimate reason to go outside get all rowdy, burn stuff and trash the city.

    Thats Turbo Timmy’s lot in life at the moment.

    If he actually had the stones to throw the French under a passing train, I’d definitely applaud. It might get him some street cred. After all, no one ever fucked with Hank Paulson, the street knew better.

  27. Mannwich says:

    Winston Munn Says:

    March 9th, 2009 at 2:20 pm
    If the financial system is so corrupted that the demise of a single insurance company can cause its collapse, what is the point in saving it?

    That’s it for me right there, WM.

  28. Estragon says:

    Smelly One,

    A country with as much foreign debt as the US (and planning to borrow a whole lot more) is in no position to be throwing anyone under a bus.

  29. Mannwich says:

    @Estragon: Well, we do have nukes. I’m sure I’m not the only one that has had this though cross his/her mind.

  30. dead hobo says:

    Everything is systemic. If Obama caught a norovirus and spent a full day in one continuous fart, (been there, done that) the markets would crash. Horribly.

    At this point, it’s hard to imagine much that would or could crash the markets beyond a temporary time period.

    Having said that, the credit freezes and general panic would create a lot of collateral damage involving innocents. On a macro basis, not much would change, maybe a couple of percent on some large scale of events. On a personal level, there would be many personal tragedies of terrible scale involving people several degrees away from the initial impact. This bit of home grown terrorism and implied blackmail is probably the main reason AIG and others still exist.

    Therefore, creative minds need to pull together. How can evil be put down without harming the innocents who would otherwise be damaged in a frontal assault?

    This is the real challenge.

  31. Moss says:

    The Free Markets strike again! They should invalidate every CDS ever written unless you hold the underlying bond. Financial innovation my ass.

  32. Estragon says:


    Quite true. Of course, some of the likely crossed minds also have nukes ;-)

  33. wnsrfr says:

    Slightly OT, anyone else wondering why BAC has diverged from C for the first time in a long time? BAC is up almost 20% today, C just a little.

    They have been moving close to lockstep last month or so…

  34. 10 cc says:


    Believe they managed to issue a few Bil in bonds today; FDIC guaranteed.

  35. MichaelLA says:

    From Page 21 of the presentation: “Insurance is the oxygen of the free enterprise system. Without the promise of
    protection against life’s adversities, the fundamentals of capitalism are undermined.”

    Memo to Hank Greenberg and all the past and present management of AIG

    Mission Accomplished. Indeed, almost solely because of your irresponsible, self-interested and incompetent actions the fundamentals of capitalism have been undermined for the current and many future generations. It appears, as told in this presentation, that without extortion of US taxpayers, there is no truth to the promise of private sector insurance. Tell me again why we even let AIG exist in the first place?

  36. 10 cc says:


    They’re an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks, to collect a bill.

  37. par1 says:

    As someone said, this is a good old protection racket: “you got a nice global financial system there, would be a shame if something were to happen to it.” Except that it already has!

  38. miamiocean says:

    It certainly is preferable to believe that this is all one big continuing swindle designed to alleviate any losses from the wealthy class, however if it is not, we could be truly, truly, screwed if large international companies such as AIG are humanely euthanized and their investors are not made whole (for which there is probably not enough trillions in the world).

    After the 1929 stock market crash, as today, Europe suffered far worse than the U.S. The differing responses of western and eastern Europe to the crisis then, led to the climate in which WWII erupted. There is some merit to the theory that allowing Europe to burn will only come back to bite us in our collective butts later.

    Given the lower potential of significant civil unrest in the U.S., the American dollar, in theory, is still seen as a haven in the near future. That is what keeps the U.S. “investors” from walking. That and, potentially, the U.S.’s private assurances that they won’t let their “friends” down. I don’t trust the government, AIG or anyone’s motives at this point. Unfortunately, if large amounts of money are sent to safe haven in the U.S., that is good for us, but worse for other countries, particularly emerging nations.

    The international potential for trouble is real. You have ongoing tensions in the Middle East, nuclear wannabes and less-than stable nuclear haves, a very young European Union which could be broken up as a result of the financial crisis with the smaller nations thrown under the bus, growing instabilities in South America, large former super-power Russia which is run by former KGB folks who will no doubt attempt to maximize the “opportunities” that the financial crisis will provide, climate change instigated droughts, water supply issues and crop threats which may accelerate providing further fuel to cross-border tensions, all of which is further exasperated by a large and growing population of refugees in several less-than stable parts the world.

    Just to make it more interesting, China is a huge nation which, due to decades-long government forced family planning, has become primarily a nation of young men. Gee what do large populations of young men do when they are many of them and no work to be had ?

    Oh, but wait, you also have a brewing peak oil problem which has the major militarized countries in the world on edge about their access to oil in the next decade.

    A potent witches brew of potential international troubles and hotspots as we may have ever had in the last 100 years. So I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the notion that part of the Obama administration’s calculations involve the potential destabilizing effects of major US financial institutions closing their doors and sending out “sorry, your investments are null and void” letters to their foreign investors.

    I’m not sure Obama will have any luck in preventing it all from going in the crapper, but I need to believe at some level that his administration is acutely aware of the potential for very bad things to happen to the U.S. if the rest of the world goes kablooey.

  39. Bruce in Tn says:


    You have a way with words!

    I love it!

  40. Bruce in Tn says:

    “Pundit Watch
    Searching for Signs of a Rally
    Amid all the bad news, one expert signals a rebound could be near.”

    Don’t go read the story, it is not worth it…rather I wanted to tell you the definition of an expert from when I used to lecture in salt mining…

    An expert is someone who is more than 60 miles away from home, and who has his own set of slides…(these days it would be all electronic…)

  41. MichaelLA says:


    Not clear on your point: Are you saying that capitalistic greed, abuse, fraud, etc., such as has led to our recent situation, is responsible for our recent wars and can lead to the next?

  42. lw says:

    People are commenting about Obama’s hair going gray…

    Watch his fingers as they knarl from arthritis and carpel tunnel from the 24×7 check writing that he is doing.

    Poor guy.. I think I would rather be unemployed than be president right now….

  43. 10 cc says:

    Well, tent cities around the country was the lead story on the national news tonight. That oughtta get people out to the Malls this weekend; or at least to the sporting goods store.

    What’s a decent tent go for these days anyway?

  44. jpo says:

    Reading the comments here I think the Lehmann shock really starts to fade. The treasury tried to be firm exactly once, you know, back a looong time ago in September ’08. This knocked the world economy close to the brink (Did you hear the one about Japans exports falling 46%? The US economy shrinking at an annualized rate of more than 6%? …). And this was when a bank failed that was considered NOT to be systemic risk.
    Yes, it is galling to the extreme that the tax payer is now forced to bail out these institutions, but then, those same tax payers elected the politicians that did nothing to prevent this. How is it that people who reelected Bush in 2004 now feel victimized?

  45. miamiocean says:


    My point was that systemic risk might be applied in more than just a financial sense. I am positive that greed, abuse and fraud have been a part of financial systems throughout human history and the exposure of such has not always directly resulted in wars to my knowledge. Some of the comments I have read of late, seem to imply that the U.S. does not need to concern itself with what happens overseas.

    What I am trying to point out is that there are a number of regional hot spots in which imploding economies could drive a climate of unrest and militaristic opportunism. I am mad enough about the whole debacle that I would choose, if I could, the option of shutting down the failed institutions and just letting the chips fall where they may. However, I also recognize that it is not realistic for the U.S. as the provider of the world’s reserve currency and the sole military super-power to close our borders, take care of our own financial problems and let the rest of the world muddle through on their own. I see that as dangerously naive and not a realistic option.

  46. batmando says:

    Well summarized, miamiocean @ 5:46 p.m. and 8:08 p.m.

    In terms of one’s own guts full of boiling anger, does anyone else think Clinton (repeal of Glass-Steagall), Gramm (Leach-Gramm-Whosit Act), Alan Greenspan (Easy-Credit Al), (add your own least favorite here) et. al. would feel any culpability at all should a great part of the world in be in flames as a result of their infinite arrogance/cupidity/stupidity/duplicity (choose one or more)?

    Not fucking likely.

  47. Blurtman says:

    Stop it now; you’ll only make things worse for yourself.

    How could it be worse? Jehovah, Jehovah, Jehovah!

  48. d4winds says:

    100% self-promotion and FUD. Let ‘em earn their keep: prepare a detailed plan for execution of Chapter 11.

  49. DeDude says:

    Is it really that simple as to just let “them” fail; then all the pieces can be sold or put in the garbage can, and all will return to what is was before, except for that small empty space they left behind, which will be filled in by others in no time?

    What if the concequences of pissing on those that are owed money, is that they started looking at giving us loans, as being equivalent to giving loans to some banana-republic. We would have to start taking our loans in foreign currency (so we could no longer pay them back by letting the $ fall), and we probably have to pay doubble digit interest rates. What are the effects of having to pay 10% intrest in a country with 40 trillion in debt and a 12 trillion GDP, and no option of just letting inflation carry the debt away? I mean a full 1/3 of the GDP just to pay interest. Taxrates would have to at least double on anybody with a 6 figure income. Would that be better or worse than just handing a few hundred billions to some foreigners, to retain their trust in the US financial system?

  50. farmera1 says:

    FORTUNE did a good article on the AIG situation. Worth reading.

  51. mkkby says:

    It’s all really simple. AIG and all the banks didn’t predict their own demise. And they were stupid enough to buy their own toxic derivatives, until it chocked them. Why should their opinion matter now? Especially when it seems so self serving.

  52. pbr90 says:

    What a dangerous precedent that threatens America!

    After all of the debate over not negotiating with terrorists, we allow government to allow economic terrorists to drive us into a fear so profound that the distortion of extortion can be converted into a “bail out” mentality.

    By any name, it is extortion, pure and simple – by private company or big government.

    America cannot afford to operate by extortion – at peace or at war. It threatens the very Constitution that permits big business to form corporations in order to make money. Now, to hold Americans hostage because they did not make money, or because they were negligent or fraudulent is a complete distortion of capitalism based upon democracy and freedom. It rewards bad behavior, and dismisses the importance of regulatory agencies formed to prevent self indulgent bad behavior from being considered legitimate.

    For government, and especially the Executive office to participate in this fraud and hostage taking on the American people through allowing the extortion is disgraceful. It is a generosity that lies well beyond the boundaries of generosity, and lies within the territory of stupidity.

    It is said there is no cure for stupidity.
    And, apparently our government has no cure for extortion, and hostage taking – whether in health care, banking, or any of its other favored prima donnas.