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AIG Bailout: Did the Government Overpay?

It is possible that the government might have overpaid a number of banks during its initial rescue attempt of American International Group (AIG). The company was in such big trouble that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York – previously headed by Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner – that the US government had to wind down its relationships with business partners.

The Federal Reserve Bank had paid the full face value of securities so that these businesses would cancel the insurance handed out by AIG. This was an attempt to relax the AIG’s liquidity trouble. However, reports leaked that at least one company had offered to cancel the contract at less than its face value. According to Neil Barofsky, the Special Inspector General, what it means is that the government might have paid billions more than what was necessary to cancel debt insurance contracts.

Why Was AIG Bailed Out at Any Cost?

Despite these findings, some analyst cannot blame the actions of the Fed during the crisis. AIG is too interconnected with other financial and non-financial firms that its failure could push the global banking system over the edge. As it neared collapse, officials decided to step up and bailout the company with billions of dollars and government guarantee to prevent a deepening of the crisis.

Whether the bailout is good for the long-term future of AIG and the government remains to be seen. This is because after several bailout attempts, the company now holds up to $180 billion in government commitments. The Treasury Department owns about 80 percent of AIG.

The Government Still Getting Some Criticisms

Critics though aren’t content with the government’s actions. They note that AIG’s trading partners knew full well what risks they are taking when they got insurance for credit-default-swaps. These partners showed willingness to take risks based on these actions. They should have been forced to take than 100 percent value of their contracts.

Neil Barofsky said that taxpayers are unlikely to recover the money infused into AIG.

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Category: Government Bailout

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