AIG's possible bailout lawsuit draws ire

After getting rescued by Uncle Sam, the insurer is reportedly contemplating whether to sue over its rescue.

By Kim Peterson Jan 8, 2013 6:37PM
Image: Laws (Medio Images/SuperStock)American International Group (AIG) is so grateful to the government that it might sue the heck out of it. Welcome to another day in lawsuit-happy America.

The insurer, if you'll recall, was in such financial trouble in 2008 that it needed a $182 billion bailout from Uncle Sam during the financial crisis. This was a massive rescue. The government ended up taking a 92% stake in the company, according to The New York Times.

The bailout was deemed a success on all sides. "AIG was able to shed its riskiest assets and find solid financial footing," reports Bloomberg. Taxpayers, for their part, made a $22.7 billion profit when AIG repaid the loan with interest.

But AIG shareholders were anything but happy. The company's former CEO, Maurice "Hank" Greenberg, filed a $25 billion lawsuit last year against the government claiming that the bailout violated the constitutional rights of shareholders.

The 87-year-old Greenberg, through his asset management company Starr International, owned 12% of AIG before the bailout. He's particularly upset with the way the government swapped a block of preferred stock for 562.9 million common shares. Greenberg also didn't like the 14.5% interest rate the government charged on its loans to AIG.

OK, fine. Greenberg can go ahead and sue. But why would AIG consider joining? Check out this letter, not even a month old, to employees from AIG chief Robert Benmosche praising the bailout. AIG and the government finally settled the bailout bill last month, which marked "one of the most extraordinary -- and what many believed to be the most unlikely -- turnarounds in American business history," Benmosche wrote.

To go from there to suing the government is laughable. "If AIG enters this suit it would be the equivalent of a patient suing their doctor for saving their life," Mark Williams, a former Federal Reserve bank examiner, told Reuters.

But AIG's board feels a duty to shareholders to at least consider joining, The New York Times reports. But the move "would almost certainly be widely seen as an audacious display of ingratitude."

Ingratitude that flies in the face of "Thank you America," a national advertising campaign that AIG is running to show how much it appreciated the bailout. It truly doesn't get more ridiculous than this.

Reactions to the news Tuesday ranged from incredulous to angry.

"Thank you, AIG, for reminding us that you guys are the worst," wrote Matt O'Brien, associate editor at The Atlantic, on Twitter. Staying with the medical analogy, Washington Post opinions editor James Downie wrote that "AIG sues doctors who performed lifesaving heart surgery on them for suggesting they might want to watch what they eat."

Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich wrote that "we should counter-sue for stupidity." Newly elected Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren wrote this sharply worded response:
Taxpayers across this country saved AIG from ruin, and it would be outrageous for this company to turn around and sue the federal government because they think the deal wasn’t generous enough. Even today, the government provides an ongoing, stealth bailout, propping up AIG with special tax breaks -- tax breaks that Congress should stop. AIG should thank American taxpayers for their help, not bite the hand that fed them for helping them out in a crisis.

The former inspector general for the Wall Street bailout, Neil Barofsky, said joining the lawsuit would be a "giant middle finger to the taxpayer," according to Politico.

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29Comments
Jan 9, 2013 8:10PM
Jan 9, 2013 4:26PM
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Yep i like you paid all my LIFE ! To any republican out there ! I AM ENTITLED.... A$$HOLES....You all truly have no say in my SOC SEC....
Jan 9, 2013 3:15PM
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Is there no limit to the greed of these corporations? They should have been jailed for their part in initiating the "Great Recession". Who cares what their stockholders think? I'm 81 years old and will never recover the losses incurred to my meager investments. SHAME, AIG !
Jan 9, 2013 9:11AM
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The FED to AIG (Italian accent - We want to make you an offer you can't refuse) and that is almost exactly want the fed idiot said the other day.

I agree with the lawsuit. The fed went overboard with the interest.
Jan 9, 2013 8:23AM
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No good deed goes unpunished. Maybe we should file a class action suit against AIG for beng part of the train wreck that threw millions out of work and helped tank their retirement accounts.
Jan 9, 2013 7:56AM
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This is the inevitable consequence of consistently filling the halls of congress with lawyers.

What's next - a homeless person suing a soup kitchen because the food didn't taste good enough?


Jan 9, 2013 7:48AM
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Remember that the US Congress has their retirement fund in AIG... They do not collect soc sec like the rest of WORKING America . The most useless place in the World has the best benefits and retirement in the World. That 47% sucking off the US Tax payer<< The MITT WITTs and wall street and the US Congress..That 47%  . But its ok ! They still believe in the too big to fail mantra.. So much for a free market system . That does not exist on wall street anymore...
Jan 9, 2013 4:14AM
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while broke and impoverished AIG still managed to sponsor pro football clubs all over the world, pays its execs millions of dollars in salary and bennies while people lost their homes their jobs and their hopes and dreams. Come on AIG lets see your real colors come and get some you greedy twits and republicans lets see what you can do with this one -I-
Jan 9, 2013 1:15AM
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Way to go Greenburg! Wreck the company, then come at them with both hands out! It makes a fellow's heart swell with pride! Only in America!
Jan 9, 2013 1:07AM
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Next time my doctor gives me treatment, he'd better look out! I'll sue his **** for helping me survive a little longer!
Jan 9, 2013 12:54AM
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What the American people do not understand is that these Fascist Republican AIG board members actually believe that they are ENTITLED to a bail out and that middle class Americans should be honored to toss their hard earned money at these greedy, anti-American, Fascists leeches.

 

With the Republican party in their pockets these guys can get all the tax cuts, bailouts, handouts, corporate welfare they want,, and if there is any resistance the bought and paid for Republicans will just hold middle class Americans hostage until they get what they want for their corporate masters.

Jan 9, 2013 12:21AM
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The U.S. Government lends AIG $182 billion at 14.5% interest...the U.S. Government didn't have any money to lend....they were running a deficit....so they borrowed the money by issuing Treasuries....Treasuries which paid (depends on the term) say 1%.

 

Borrow at 1% and lend at 14.5%....hmmm....14.5% sounds like Credit Card interest rates...you know .....the rates we all complain about!

 

Well now it's about all over...big banks repaid...government made a big profit, AIG repaid...government made a big profit...General Motors...well the government is still talking to the Unions....the Unions like the treatment the big banks and AIG got...but they don't think it should apply to them!

Jan 8, 2013 10:03PM
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AIG should just shut up and stay out the lawsuit. They made out well and do not need to embarass themselves. Next we will have GM suing the US
Jan 8, 2013 9:11PM
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Shut AIG down. Chase it's entire personnel off the continent. Tell it's Board and Clientele to go screw themselves while freezing their assets. Bulldoze the buildings, set fire to the furnishings, shred it into oblivion. Be sure their lawyers are tied to the rooftops when the buildings go down.

 

If we don't stop Law Firms and sue-happy morons, we will cease to exist. End them first.

Jan 8, 2013 8:31PM
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I don't know what to think...?.....I just wanna cry.
Jan 8, 2013 8:08PM
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Just another reason to never bail out a company no one is to big to fail just look at our government it's getting bigger and failing more every day....
Jan 8, 2013 7:41PM
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Wait a second, hold on, you're talking about 'Job Creators" here and you cant talk about them in such a disrespectful tone or they may decide to "create jobs" somewhere else. Remember your place and be thankful you're still free (sort of).
Jan 8, 2013 7:36PM
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Since AIG wants to reject the terms of the bailout. A class action lawsuit should be filed against all AIG Board Members and executives. You can't reject only part of the bailout, the immunity from prosecution clause is also unfair to everyone who had to suffer from AIG's mismanagement.
Jan 8, 2013 7:13PM
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I cancelled all my insurance business with AIG...and maybe others should also.  The management took big payouts, got richer, appears they are greedy ingrateful bastards.  To hell with AIG and the leaders of their problem plagued company.  Sic the IRS on all of them and they will expose the crooks and cronies
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