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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Fed “Refused to Use its Considerable Leverage”

A report on the NY Fed's role in the AIG bailout is less than flattering:

Audit Faults New York Fed in A.I.G. Bailout, by Mary Williams Walsh, NY Times: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York gave up much of its power in high-pressure negotiations with the American International Group’s trading partners last year, according to a government report made public on Monday.
Just two days before the New York Fed paid A.I.G.’s partners 100 cents on the dollar to tear up their contracts with the insurance giant, one bank volunteered to take a modest haircut — but it never got the chance. UBS, of Switzerland, alone offered to give a break to the New York Fed... It would have accepted 98 cents on the dollar.
But UBS’s good-faith gesture was quickly drowned out by Goldman Sachs and the top French bank regulator. They argued, with others, that it would be improper and perhaps even criminal to force A.I.G.’s trading partners to bear losses outside of bankruptcy court.
The banks and the regulator were confident that the New York Fed was not willing to push A.I.G. into bankruptcy... The New York Fed, led then by Timothy F. Geithner, who is now the Treasury secretary, therefore had little leverage in the negotiations...
The Fed “refused to use its considerable leverage,” Neil M. Barofsky, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, wrote in a report to be officially released on Tuesday, examining the much-criticized decision to make A.I.G.’s trading partners whole when people and businesses were taking painful losses in the financial markets.
There have been suggestions that the Fed chose to negotiate weakly, Mr. Barofsky said, to give a “backdoor bailout” to A.I.G.’s banks. He said Mr. Geithner and the Fed’s lawyers had denied this, but added that “irrespective of their stated intent,” there was no doubt about the result: “Tens of billions of dollars of government money was funneled inexorably and directly to A.I.G.’s counterparties.” ...
Mr. Barofsky said the facts also undermined the Fed’s arguments that banking secrecy was an essential part of bank stability.

“The default position, whenever government funds are deployed in a crisis to support markets or institutions, should be that the public is entitled to know what is being done with government funds,” he said.

For the other side, see Economics of Contempt's Geithner Vindicated in TARP Watchdog Report.

    Posted by on Tuesday, November 17, 2009 at 01:08 AM in Economics, Financial System | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (15)


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