U.S. Treasury Hid $40 Billion in AIG Bailout Losses

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October 27, 2010

Treasury Hid A.I.G. Loss, Report Says (New York Times):

The United States Treasury concealed $40 billion in likely taxpayer losses on the bailout of the American International Group earlier this month, when it abandoned its usual method for valuing investments, according to a report by the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

“In our view, this is a significant failure in their transparency,” said Neil M. Barofsky, the inspector general, in an interview on Monday.

In early October, the Treasury issued a report predicting that the taxpayers would ultimately lose just $5 billion on their investment in A.I.G., a remarkable outcome, since the insurance company was extended $182 billion in taxpayer money in the early months of its rescue. The prediction of a modest loss, widely reported as A.I.G., the Federal Reserve and the Treasury rushed to complete an exit plan, contrasted with an earlier prediction by the Treasury that the taxpayers would lose $45 billion.

“The American people have a right for full and complete disclosure about their investment in A.I.G.,” Mr. Barofsky said, “and the U.S. government has an obligation, when they’re describing potential losses, to give complete information.”

U.S. Treasury too rosy on bailout cost – TARP cop (Reuters):

The Obama administration’s latest estimate of taxpayer costs of the Wall Street bailout is too rosy and could ultimately damage public trust in government, the top bailout cop said on Monday.

In its quarterly report to Congress, the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said the Treasury Department’s bailout cost estimate for American International Group (AIG.N) was an example of using misleading numbers to paint a positive pre-election account of the program.

The administration on Sept. 30 slashed its estimate of the overall cost of the U.S. financial bailout by more than half to less than $50 billion on the back of a new plan to sell the government’s stake in insurer AIG.

The SIGTARP report said the Treasury Department, in coming up with the fresh estimate, had changed its calculation method to estimate a $5 billion cost for AIG. That was a shift from an earlier projection of $45 billion that used a broader measure to calculate the cost.

See also the SIGTARP Quarterly Report from July 21, 2009:

By itself, the Troubled Asset Relief Program (“TARP”) is a huge program at $700 billion. As discussed in SIGTARP’s April Quarterly Report, the total financial exposure of TARP and TARP-related programs may reach approximately $3 trillion.  Although large in its own right, TARP is only a part of the combined efforts of the Federal Government to address the financial crisis. Approximately 50 initiatives or programs have been created by various Federal agencies since 2007 to provide potential support totaling more than $23.7 trillion. The Federal Reserve has been one of the lead agencies responding to the financial crisis — increasing its balance sheet to more than $2 trillion to implement a wide range of programs designed to stimulate liquidity in financial markets, as well as several institution-specific interventions. The Federal Reserve’s $2 trillion balance sheet (which grew from approximately $900 billion prior to the financial crisis to a peak of nearly $2.3 trillion in December 2008),322 however, does not reflect the true potential amount of support the Federal Reserve has provided to those programs, which is estimated to be at least $6.8 trillion. This is because many of the programs involve guarantees that, although not listed on the balance sheet, expose the Federal Reserve to significant losses if the assets they are backing deteriorate in value.

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