Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Stupid Is As Stupid Does
Readers of this blog know my opinion of the brain power at AIG. Here is some proof from a Wall Street Journal article:

American International Group Inc. owes Wall Street's biggest firms about $10 billion for speculative trades that have soured, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring the challenges the insurer faces as it seeks to recover under a U.S. government rescue plan.

The details of the trades go beyond what AIG has explained to investors about the nature of its risk-taking operations, which led to the firm's near-collapse in September. In the past, AIG has said that its trades involved helping financial institutions and counterparties insure their securities holdings. The speculative trades, engineered by the insurer's financial-products unit, represent the first sign that AIG may have been gambling with its own capital.

And here is the dilemma:
The fresh $10 billion bill is particularly challenging because the terms of the current $150 billion rescue package for AIG don't cover those debts. The structure of the soured deals raises questions about how the insurer will raise the funds to pay the debts. The Federal Reserve, which lent AIG billions of dollars to stay afloat, has no immediate plans to help AIG pay off the speculative trades.

The $10 billion in other IOUs stems from market wagers that weren't contracts to protect securities held by banks or other investors against default. Rather, they are from AIG's exposures to speculative investments, which were essentially bets on the performance of bundles of derivatives linked to subprime mortgages, commercial real-estate bonds and corporate bonds.

These bets aren't covered by the pool to buy troubled securities, and many of these bets have lost value during the past few weeks, triggering more collateral calls from its counterparties.
And dumber:
Some of AIG's speculative bets were tied to a group of collateralized debt obligations named "Abacus," created by Goldman Sachs. The Abacus deals were investment portfolios designed to track the values of derivatives linked to billions of dollars in residential mortgage debt. In what amounted to a side bet on the value of these holdings, AIG agreed to pay Goldman if the mortgage debt declined in value and would receive money if it rose.
It is not surprising that AIG came out on the short end of a trade with Goldman Sachs.

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