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Call for AIG Open Source Investigation (and Goldman Implications)

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December 20, 2009          Nakedcapitalism.com

Spitzer, Partnoy, Black Call for AIG Open Source Investigation (and Goldman Implications)

An op-ed in the Sunday New York Times by former investigators and prosecutors Eliot Spitzer, Frank Parnoy, and William Black calls for AIG to put non-privileged e-mails, accounting documents, and financial models on line to allow for an “open source” investigation. The questions they want to examine include:

As fraud investigators, we would like to examine the trading patterns of A.I.G.’s financial products division, and its communications with Goldman Sachs and other bank counterparties who benefited from the bailout. We would like to understand whether the leaders of A.I.G. understood that they were approaching a financial Armageddon, and whether they alerted their counterparties, regulators and shareholders to the impending calamity.

We would like to see how A.I.G. was able to pay huge bonuses to its officers based on the short-term income they received from counterparties for selling guarantees that, lacking adequate loss reserves, the companies would never be able to honor. We would also like to know what regulators knew, and what they did with the information they had obtained.

…….This is a good proposal, but I have a far more basic question: why was no forensic work done as a requirement of the bailouts? The Swiss Federal Banking Commission required UBS to perform an extensive investigation of exactly what it did so wrong that it needed a government handout, and it hired (presumably at the insistence of the regulators) third parties to conduct the investigation. It provided considerably more detail than any bank has provided so far of how a firm with a solid franchise drove itself into an abyss.Why has there been NO serious investigation of ANY kind of the recipient of such extraordinary taxpayer largesse? Why has virtually NOTHING been demanded of them? Why the unseemly rush to let them off the hook and let them “pay back the TARP”? This is completely unwarranted in the case of AIG, which has had its deal with the government retraded in AIG’s favor a full four times. Why has AIG at every turn gotten a better and better deal, each time at the public’s expense, and is now allowed to lobby that it should be freed of its obligations? …..

So why have there been no investigations? In AIG, the Goldman conspiracy theorists have a real case. Consider this commentary from a reader who was a senior executive at a monoline, on an article that looked like a PR effort to get ahead of a possible source of trouble for Goldman. The Wall Street Journal story noted that Goldman guaranteed $23 billion of CDOs with AIG and allegedly made a mere $50 million…. which is utter bullshit. Normal CDO originating spread are 1.25% to 1.5%. Its profits on these deals, separate on how it might have booked its trades with AIG, was at least $287.5 million….

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