AIG Part Three - Why Didn't Spitzer Step in Sooner?
If Eliot Spitzer had stepped in sooner and investigated credit default swaps, maybe the folly of these securities would have been more apparent and the old AIG and old Wall Street would still be in business. I am being facetious, of course. Here is the last article in the Washington Posts's excellent three-part series on AIG.
Eliot Spitzer did not cause AIG's demise and Hank Greenberg could not have saved AIG. It was too overexposed in a business it improperly modeled. AIG thought it was collecting fees for billions of dollars of insurance (credit default swaps) it never expected to need to honor. The counter parties to these swaps thought they could underwrite any type of security and buy an insurance product to unload the risk. This scenario played out all across Wall Street. Myopia reigned and lead to complaceny that left most firms unprepared for the crush of the Credit Crisis. Situations where companies make outrageous profits while thinking they're not incurring risk, do not last forever. Hopefully, the Quants that developed all the failed models will go back to academia or to software engineering firms and Wall Street will revert to the traditional risk models and old fashioned credit analysis.