The Deal Behind the AIG deal – Video: Warren vs Geithner

OK, the video is juicy and it’s fun to watch a very smart woman smack down the wizard of smart (H/T Rush). But, to truly enjoy Professor Warren’s performance and Tim Geithner’s squirm, you need some background.

The financial collapse of 2008 and the subsequent bailout of banks and investment banks in an attempt to avert what we were told was certain depression is complex to say the least. But what you need to understand is that while the banks certainly shoulder so much of the blame for assuming so much risk, the government’s role is key to the entire story.

Without the “promise” of government intervention in the event of default on so many different financial instruments it is highly unlikely these financial “wizards” would have assumed so much risk in one shaky market.

But intervene it did and it cost we the taxpayers billions of dollars. I am not questioning in this post whether intervention was necessary. That’s the subject of a much longer and I will admit ideological debate. But what does seem certain is that it wasn’t necessary to spend so much of our money just so the large investment banks could come out whole. It is the point that Dr. Elizabeth Warren, in charge of TARP oversight, made so well in her hearing last week with the real “wizard” of smart, Tim Geithner.

First some quick background. In October of this year Bloomberg reported on how AIG, which had taken on the role of insuring these bundled mortgage financial instruments called CDOs, was in the process of negotiating payouts on these policies with the large investment banks (which had recklessly invested in too many of these mortgage securities) for substantially less than the CDS’s had called for.

In the months leading up to the September 2008 collapse of giant insurer American International Group Inc.Elias Habayeb and his colleagues worked nights and weekends negotiating with banks that had bought $62 billion of credit-default swaps from AIG, according to a person who has worked with Habayeb.

Habayeb, 37, was chief financial officer for the AIG division that oversaw AIG Financial Products, the unit that had sold the swaps to the banks. One of his goals was to persuade the banks to accept discounts of as much as 40 cents on the dollar, according to people familiar with the matter.

That’s when Tim Geithner, then with the NY Fed and his buddies stepped in and made the big guys whole. It was like manna from heaven.

Part of a sentence in the document was crossed out. It contained a blank space that was intended to show the amount of the haircut the banks would take, according to people who saw the term sheet. After less than a week of private negotiations with the banks, the New York Fed instructed AIG to pay them par, or 100 cents on the dollar. The content of its deliberations has never been made public.

With that background then … this video becomes so juicy. Much thanks to Dr. Warren. The Treasury’s wizard of smart finally ran into someone who was smarter than he.


Make sure you read the whole Bloomberg article. It will anger you much. Then just as an added bonus I am including a link to a WSJ story I frequently refer to, “The Weekend Wall Street Died”. Unfortunately you need a subscription to the WSJ to read it unless you can find a way to get it otherwise. It is the article I read last year before by daughter’s wedding that didn’t get much attention from my audience but I read it anyway. It details the details behind the Merrill Lynch rescue and the collapse of Lehman Brothers.

This background is critical to your understanding of what happened and why we as taxpayers paid so dearly. It explains why Cody Willard and I are so angry and why I continually use the phrase to describe TARP as the “Hank Paulson Push To Keep His Buddies From Moving From the Hamptons to Yonkers Act”.

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Jim Vicevich

Jim is a veteran broadcaster and conservative/libertarian blogger with more than 25 years experience in TV and radio. Jim's was the long-term host of The Jim Vicevich Show on WTIC 1080 in Hartford from 2004 through 2019. Prior to radio, Jim worked as a business and financial reporter for NBC30 - the NBC owned TV station in Hartford - and as business editor at WFSB-TV in Hartford for 14 years while earning six Emmy nominations and three Telly Awards.


  1. Dimsdale on December 15, 2009 at 4:00 am

    One wonders if a sense of "omnipotence" is a requirement for membership in the Obama club.  Obviously, cheating on one's taxes helps.


    You could see the anger in his face that this woman deigned to question the great Timmy!  I mean, how could helping out ones cronies in the banking industry be "so complicated"?


    Geithner shouldn't be allowed to have a savings account, much less control of Treasury.

  2. donh on December 15, 2009 at 4:35 am

    Geitner's nature of choice Either you prevent default or you don't and default would be cataclysmic…..cataclismic for who? ???   members of the elite money club?  The club that got  Geitner into the position where he can take money from people who are outside the money club and hand it to his best friends on the inside  caught with their pants down? What choice is that? It is as clear a moral choice as between life and an abortion. Geither made an immoral  choice to serve the devil. What do you expect from a government employee who is paid with tax collected funds into  his right hand and then cheats on his income  taxes with the left hand.

  3. OkieJim on December 15, 2009 at 5:25 am

    The chief prerequisite for membership on Team Obama seems to be arrogance. Geithner qualifies.

    But Timmy isn't the problem … his boss is the problem. In Obama, we have someone who never heard of economics, or what the consequences might be of deep debt. If Geithner is representative of the best economic counsel Obama is getting, we need to sweep the whole team out as soon as possible.

  4. Erik Blazynski on December 15, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    I was listening to the Bernake re-confirmation and Connecticut's own Chris Dodd was giving Bernake a ration of crap for this same issue. Yet still votes to confirm him. Does anyone have any principles that they live by? I find it laughable that the only thing that they scrutinize is that the gov't offered 100 cents to the dollar. How about the trillions that are unaccounted for!!!  No one cares. The one reporter for Bloomberg that filed an FOIA request turned up dead. Interesting coincidence. These guys are all crooks and will stop at nothing to protect their cartel.

    "I don't understand why this is so complicated"  translated mean "look you stupid b–ch"  Just offensive the hubris with which these guys strut around.

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