WASHINGTON - Another day, but not just another bailout. This one's a stunning government takeover.
In the most far-reaching intervention into the private sector ever for the Federal Reserve, the government stepped in Tuesday to rescue American International Group Inc. with an $85 billion injection of taxpayer money. Under the deal, the government will get a 79.9 percent stake in one of the world's largest insurers and the right to remove senior management.
AIG's chief executive, Robert Willumstad, is expected to be replaced by Edward Liddy, the former head of insurer Allstate Corp., according to The Wall Street Journal, citing a person it did not name. Willumstad had been at the helm of AIG since June.
A call to AIG to confirm the executive change was not immediately returned.
It was the second time this month the feds put taxpayer money on the hook to rescue a private financial company, saying its failure would further disrupt markets and threaten the already fragile economy.
AIG said it will repay the money in full with proceeds from the sales of some of its assets. It will be up to the company to decide which assets to sell and the timing. The government does, however, have veto power.
Under the deal, the Federal Reserve will provide a two-year $85 billion emergency loan at an interest rate of about 11.5 percent to AIG, which teetered on the edge of failure because of stresses caused by the collapse of the subprime mortgage market and the credit crunch that ensued. In return, the government will get a 79.9 percent stake in AIG and the right to remove senior management.
AIG shares sank $1.34, or 36 percent, to $2.41 in morning trading Wednesday. They traded as high as $70.13 in the past year.
The government's move was similar to its bailout of Sept. 7 of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, where the Treasury Department said it was prepared to put up as much as $100 billion over time in each of the companies if needed to keep them from going broke.
The Fed said it determined that a disorderly failure of AIG could hurt the already delicate financial markets and the economy.
I don't like this at all. Besides the socialism, this strikes me as a panicked decision. Every company now is going to be asking for even more handouts as usual.
Now, many saw problems far in advance on the horizon with this stuff. McCain called part of this back in 2005. Freddie and Frannie.
FEDERAL HOUSING ENTERPRISE REGULATORY REFORM ACT OF 2005
The United States Senate
May 25, 2006 Section 16
"For years I have been concerned about the regulatory structure that governs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac--known as Government-sponsored entities or GSEs--and the sheer magnitude of these companies and the role they play in the housing market. OFHEO's report this week does nothing to ease these concerns. In fact, the report does quite the contrary. OFHEO's report solidifies my view that the GSEs need to be reformed without delay.
I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole."
I'm not a big fan of regulation, and probably would have balked on this back in 05. McCain called the problems with that. McCain wasn't the only one who called this. Bush called it. Back in 2003
Now I wish Bush and McCain pushed this through in 2005 (and Obama was part of the problem too).
The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.
Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.
The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies. It would exercise authority over any new lines of business. And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing the risks of their ballooning portfolios.
The plan is an acknowledgment by the administration that oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- which together have issued more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding debt -- is broken. A report by outside investigators in July concluded that Freddie Mac manipulated its accounting to mislead investors, and critics have said Fannie Mae does not adequately hedge against rising interest rates.
''There is a general recognition that the supervisory system for housing-related government-sponsored enterprises neither has the tools, nor the stature, to deal effectively with the current size, complexity and importance of these enterprises,'' Treasury Secretary John W. Snow told the House Financial Services Committee in an appearance with Housing Secretary Mel Martinez, who also backed the plan.
Mr. Snow said that Congress should eliminate the power of the president to appoint directors to the companies, a sign that the administration is less concerned about the perks of patronage than it is about the potential political problems associated with any new difficulties arising at the companies.
The administration's proposal, which was endorsed in large part today by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, would not repeal the significant government subsidies granted to the two companies. And it does not alter the implicit guarantee that Washington will bail the companies out if they run into financial difficulty; that perception enables them to issue debt at significantly lower rates than their competitors. Nor would it remove the companies' exemptions from taxes and antifraud provisions of federal securities laws.
The proposal is the opening act in one of the biggest and most significant lobbying battles of the Congressional session.
Then there is Barney Frank and Mel Watt, democrats.
''These two entities -- Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- are not facing any kind of financial crisis,'' said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ''The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.''
Representative Melvin L. Watt, Democrat of North Carolina, agreed.
''I don't see much other than a shell game going on here, moving something from one agency to another and in the process weakening the bargaining power of poorer families and their ability to get affordable housing,'' Mr. Watt said.
Now, what about Obama's ties to Fannie and Freddie?
Top Recipients of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
Campaign Contributions, 1989-2008
1. Dodd, Christopher J D-CT $133,900
2. Kerry, John D-MA $111,000
3. Obama, Barack D-IL $105,849
4. Clinton, Hillary D-NY $75,550
5. Kanjorski, Paul E D-PA $65,500
6. Bennett, Robert F R-UT $61,499
And it gets worse for Obama. Former CEO Jim Johnson was Obama's VP vetter. Elect Obama, and you get more of the same.