AIG-Gate: The World’s Greatest Insurance Heist

Rumor has it that Timothy Geithner is on his way out as Treasury Secretary, due to his involvement in the AIG scandal that is now unraveling in hearings before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Bob Chapman writes in The International Forecaster:

Each day brings more revelations of efforts of the NY Fed and Goldman Sachs to hide the details of the criminal conspiracy of the AIG bailout. … This is a real crisis on the scale of Watergate. Corruption at its finest.

But unlike the perpetrators of the Watergate scandal, who wound up looking at jail time, Geithner evidently has a golden parachute waiting at Goldman Sachs, not coincidentally the largest recipient of the AIG bailout. At least that is the rumor sparked by an article by Caroline Baum on Bloomberg News, titled “Goldman Parachute Awaits Geithner to Ease Fall.” Hank Paulson, Geithner’s predecessor, was CEO of Goldman Sachs before coming to the Treasury. Geithner, who has come up through the ranks of government, could be walking through the revolving door in the other direction.

Geithner has been under the House microscope for the decision of the New York Fed, made while he headed it, to buy out about $30 billion in credit default swaps (over-the-counter derivative insurance contracts) that AIG sold on toxic debt securities. The chief recipients of this payout were Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Societe Generale and Deutsche Bank. Goldman got $13 billion, roughly equivalent to its bonus pool for the first 9 months of 2009. Critics are calling the New York Fed’s decision a back-door bailout for the banks, which received 100 cents on the dollar for contracts that would have been worth far less had AIG been put through bankruptcy proceedings in the ordinary way. In a Bloomberg article provocatively titled “Secret Banking Cabal Emerges from AIG Shadows,” David Reilly wrote:

[T]he New York Fed is a quasi-governmental institution that isn’t subject to citizen intrusions such as freedom of information requests, unlike the Federal Reserve. This impenetrability comes in handy since the bank is the preferred vehicle for many of the Fed’s bailout programs. It’s as though the New York Fed was a black-ops outfit for the nation’s central bank.

The beneficiaries of the New York Fed’s largesse got paid in full although they had agreed to take much less. In a November 2009 article titled “It’s Time to Fire Tim Geithner,” Dylan Ratigan wrote:

[L]ast November … New York Federal Reserve Governor Tim Geithner decided to deliver 100 cents on the dollar, in secret no less, to pay off the counter parties to the world’s largest (and still un-investigated) insurance fraud — AIG. This full payoff with taxpayer dollars was carried out by Geithner after AIG’s bank customers, such as Goldman Sachs, Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale, had already previously agreed to taking as little as 40 cents on the dollar. Even after the GM autoworkers, bondholders and vendors all received a government-enforced haircut on their contracts, he still had the audacity to claim the “sanctity of contracts” in the dealings with these companies like AIG.

Geithner testified that the Fed’s hands were tied and that the bank could not “selectively default on contractual obligations without courting collapse.” But if it was all on the up and up, why all the secrecy? The contention that the Fed had no choice is also belied by a recent holding in the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, in which New York Bankruptcy Judge James Peck set aside the same type of investment contracts that Secretaries Paulson and Geithner repeatedly swore under oath had to be paid in full in the case of AIG. The judge declared that clauses in those contracts subordinating other claims to the holders’ claims were null and void in bankruptcy.

“And notice,” comments bank analyst Chris Whalen, “that the world has not ended when the holders of [derivative] contracts are treated like everyone else.” He calls the AIG bailout “a hideous political contrivance that ranks with the great acts of political corruption and thievery in the history of the United States.”

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, said Joseph Goebbels, people will eventually come to believe it. The bailout of Wall Street initiated in September 2008 was premised on the dire prediction that if major counterparties in the massive edifice of derivative contracts were allowed to fall, the whole interlocking house of cards would collapse and take the economy with it. A hijacked Congress dutifully protected the derivatives game with taxpayer money while the real economy proceeded to collapse, the financial sector choosing to put their money into this protected form of speculative betting rather than into the more mundane and risky business of making loans to struggling businesses and homeowners. In the end, $170 billion of federal funds went to AIG and the banks feeding at its trough. Meanwhile, a survey of state finances by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities think tank found that state governments face a collective $168 billion budget shortfall for fiscal 2010. If the money used to bail out AIG and the banks had been used to bail out the states instead, the states would not be facing insolvency today.

There is no law against gambling, but there is a law against fraud. In Watergate, a special prosecutor was appointed to bring criminal charges; but times seem to have changed.

Ellen Brown is an attorney, founder of the Public Banking Institute, and author of twelve books, including the best-selling Web of Debt. In The Public Bank Solution, her latest book, she explores successful public banking models historically and globally. Read other articles by Ellen, or visit Ellen's website.

12 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Don Hawkins said on February 7th, 2010 at 9:53am #

    And Ellen if your article was ever even mentioned on msm the response would be this had to be done we need Goldman or AIG to big to fail. So the World would not go on without them and just maybe the World/Earth life will not go on with them.

  2. Don Hawkins said on February 7th, 2010 at 10:04am #

    Then of course many will say oh you just don’t like rich people this is nothing more than class war fair. Yes the last few years you are 100% correct in that statement.

  3. bozh said on February 7th, 2010 at 10:39am #

    Achtung and danger! Bozh is writing! Don’t believe a word of what i say.
    I aver that we have been ruled by gangsters for at least 10k yrs. US is ruled by a gang.
    It is basicly structured like a mafia, biker, street gang: capo at the top, frontman, and a hitman or hitmen.
    Cia-army is a hitman, congress-schooling-WH-media is the frontman; plutos the invisible but smellable capo.
    Each of these studs of the house of robber barons has an assigned task. Main function of the congress-WH is to scribble dwn laws; written by Them against;oops, for the other Them.
    Which, of course, are interpretd by former Them [socalled judiciary]; always as needed or as it suits the first Them and the capo.
    Wasn’t that what capone, luciano had?
    Another act that WH-media-congress-schooling performs at the behest of the capo is telling people what is not going on.

    i suppose that capone also had own banking system. So does judiciary, congress, the capo. So is capo gonna punish self? he never had before.
    he might, do u think?

  4. Don Hawkins said on February 7th, 2010 at 12:13pm #

    And in the Capitalist system that some have called a mad mad mad World a few are running around being smarter than the many. Well smarter is the wrong word passing laws that only they the few understand after of course selling there soul to the system and anybody else they can think of. Now this thinking sort of trickles down to many more. We are doing it for the share holders kind of. Do some use force of course and remember that can be an illusion all that is needed is you believe in the illusion. I hear now that pension funds are in a bit of trouble you know you work for say a city 25 or thirty years and well the smart ones now think it’s a good idea to not pay up. Well they can’t pay up the money is now debt something to do with one and one is not two but 20 or thirty that went very very wrong. Again as the system began to fall apart about two years ago who got the help first that’s right the smart one’s but you need us we make the World go around. No that’s called gravity has something to do with the Sun and the known Universe. Don’t tell anybody they won’t believe you.

  5. Deadbeat said on February 7th, 2010 at 12:31pm #

    Don is correct the damage is already done. Geithner, the tax evader, did his part as planned.

  6. Deadbeat said on February 7th, 2010 at 1:00pm #

    Ms. Brown writes…

    The bailout of Wall Street initiated in September 2008 was premised on the dire prediction that if major counterparties in the massive edifice of derivative contracts were allowed to fall, the whole interlocking house of cards would collapse and take the economy with it.

    This statement is true. Had the bailout not occurred the ripple effect would have been huge and the economy would have been worse off. So the government was needed to step in. The problem was that the government didn’t extract any concession from Wall Street. For example they didn’t repeal the 1981 Kemp-Roth tax cuts on the rich. They didn’t repeal the 1978 Capital Gains tax cuts. They didn’t rollback the 1983 shift of SS tax burden on the working class. They didn’t restore revenue sharing for the states. They didn’t restore anti-trust enforcement to break up the big banks.

    Therefore the government did nothing to redistribute wealth back to the citizens which is what is needed.

  7. dan e said on February 7th, 2010 at 1:13pm #

    Bozh, let me applaud your very colorful but very accurate description of the basic structure of the capitalist state. Your use of the term “gang” echoes what WEB Dubois said about it almost a century ago: “The Gangsters of the World Are Riding High”.

    I think you might find it worthwhile as well as enjoyable to read the detailed analysis of the Capitalist State authored some years ago by the late French philosopher Louis Althusser and his collaborator Etiene Balibar, in a couple of very readable books titled “Pour Marx” (“For Marx”) and “Reading Capital”.
    It was not until I encountered these works that I fully realized that the State includes EVERYTHING that functions to keep or help to keep the current rulers in power. It includes not just the political state, the lawmaking bodies, the Executive organs, the Judiciary, Army, Security Organs, but also the Ideological Apparatus, the MSM, Academia, publishing, “culture” in general, the religious establishments, plus other elements — and lest I forget, the Financial State apparatus, topped by the NY Fed & the Dept of Treasury, plus the congressional bodies who make sure the statutes on the books accord with what Goldman Sachs wants to do.
    BTW, I am somewhat bemused by, among others, Alex Cockburn’s “Counterpunch” webpage. AC et al publish a lot of worthwhile stuff, but also have a cpl of quirks which have lead many to conclude they are in fact “part of the scam”. Which is lent credibility by Cockburn’s continuing relationship with “”The Nation”, a publication that is definitely part of said scam.
    But what has me bemused is that Counterpunch publishes some of the most pointed criticism of the Israeli state to be found, and also some of the most trenchant exposure of recent financial shenanigans and former, future, and current Goldman Sachs employees in same. On the one hand, exposure of the vicious, lawless Zionist state, on the other exposure of the machinations of a bunch of enthusiastic Zionist US Jews in the US economy. But it seems never the twain shall meet, like there is some impenetrable mental firewall between the two sets of phenomena.
    Would I be “going too far” if I suggested something more than a coincidence might be involved?

  8. Don Hawkins said on February 7th, 2010 at 1:24pm #

    What was Einstein very very good at? Seeing things that are right in front of us but hard to see almost an illusion for most of us our eye’s deceive us not Albert.

    A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us,us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Einstein

    Are we in a time of Universal deceit well it’s either that or grand stupidity. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. Now movie starts how did they learn to do this well with the help of writers and special effects people help a little and policymakers how did they learn law school and people on Wall Street business school. Granted after school they get on the job training the fine points. Does the thinking restrict them to there personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to them? No just one of the people and once in power they love us very very much. How’s that health care bill coming or the climate bill what climate bill. What is it 30 billion from TARP to small business oops big fight. The 30 billion should go to pay off the deficit so our kid’s will have a better life. Such good people and very clever sort of. Ignorance is strength it work’s with the help of symbols proper dress and if someone asks the wrong question no more air time for you or the look and please leave your on the wrong team your fired. You can’t fire me am a citizen of the Universe, SECURITY. This delusion is a kind of prison for us. Was he correct on this? Nice cup of coffee game of checkers?

  9. Don Hawkins said on February 7th, 2010 at 3:07pm #

    The massive edifice of derivative contracts let’s see how Europe does this week and those massive edifice of derivative contracts for the smart ones.

  10. bozh said on February 7th, 2010 at 4:07pm #

    Dan e,
    I am not surprised that s’mone had already said that we are ruled by gangsters.
    Or that nothing can happen that the one big happy family; i.e., judiciary, ‘educators’, congress, media, WH, cia, fbi, army echelons, plutos don’t ok.
    i at times call the family cosa nostra. We r cosa mias; disunited, without representation, nonfamily members, etc.
    We are the uncle’s step nieces and -nephews.

  11. Mulga Mumblebrain said on February 8th, 2010 at 2:34am #

    dan e gets it. To point out the glaring consistencies in the backgrounds of the chief perpetrators in this scandal is,of course, to be guilty of ‘anti-Semitism’ by definition. The huge thefts involved in the financial chicanery prior to the GFC, and the huge transfers of loot to the banksters thereafter, from the public purse, will all come to reside in familiar pockets. Now the second, or is it third, phase of this conspiracy comes to pass. The huge debts incurred to rescue the financial parasites, money they have used for new speculations, new bubbles and to pay themselves even greater, still larcenous, ‘bonuses’, but not, under any circumstances to find its way into the hands of the despised ‘moochers’,is to be paid back by destroying generations of social progress, privatising everything in sight and throttling social progress and the common good for decades. To coldly plot such policy, to carry it out with audacity and impudence requires, I believe, a visceral conviction that you and your fellow kleptocrats are a higher form of humanity than the rabble whose lives your policies are going to make very, very, unpleasant. While class and ideology play their part in such misanthropic machinations, there can be no doubt that the cultural and religious belief that you are one of a’Chosen Race’, as different from the rest, as Rabbi Kook the Elder observed, as they are from mere animals, makes such manoeuvres all the easier, and nicely anaesthesises the conscience.

  12. dan e said on February 8th, 2010 at 5:07pm #

    bozh,
    dan agrees 110pct. Except WEB Dubois is not just “someone” but one of the clearest minds the 20th Century produced. If you haven’t checked out his “Black Reconstruction” and “ABC of Color”, you’re missing a lot, think you’d find both highly enjoyable and very valuable.

    Mulga, thank you so much for kind words and corroboration. I always enjoy your posts & agree with about 90pct of what you say, esp. about the Zionazis. To be up front about it, I don’t have much more use for the Northern Alliance than I do for Karzai & Co. But then my knowledge of the area is less detailed than your own, & I’m sure you have strong reasons for feeling as you do.
    However since my habit is to pronounce “anaesthetizes” as though spelt with both a Theta and a Tau…;)