Sunday, March 29, 2009
Exclusive: AIG Was Responsible For The Banks' January & February Profitability
Posted by Tyler Durden at 6:35 PM
Zero Hedge is rarely speechless, but after receiving this email from a correlation desk trader, we simply had to hold a moment of silence for the phenomenal scam that continues unabated in the financial markets, and now has the full oversight and blessing of the U.S. government, which in turns keeps on duping U.S. taxpayers into believing everything is good.
I present the insider perspective of trader Lou (who wishes to remain anonymous) in its entirety:
"AIG-FP accumulated thousands of trades over the years, all essentially consisted of selling default protection. This was done via a number of structures with really only one criteria - rated at least AA- (if it fit these criteria all OK - as far as I could tell credit assessment was completely outsourced to the rating agencies).
Main products they took on were always levered credit risk, credit-linked notes (collateral and CDS both had to be at least AA-, no joint probability stuff) and AAA or super senior portfolio swaps. Portfolio swaps were either corporate synthetic CDO or asset backed, effectively sub-prime wraps (as per news stories regarding GS and DB).
Credit linked notes are done through single-name CDS desks and a cash desk (for the note collateral) and the portfolio swaps are done through the correlation desk. These trades were done is almost every jurisdiction - wherever AIG had an office they had IB salespeople covering them.
Correlation desks just back their risk out via the single names desks - the correlation desk manages the delta/gamma according to their correlation model. So correlation desks carry model risk but very little market risk.
I was mostly involved in the corporate synthetic CDO side.
During Jan/Feb AIG would call up and just ask for complete unwind prices from the credit desk in the relevant jurisdiction. These were not single deal unwinds as are typically more price transparent - these were whole portfolio unwinds. The size of these unwinds were enormous, the quotes I have heard were "we have never done as big or as profitable trades - ever".
As these trades are unwound, the correlation desk needs to unwind the single name risk through the single name desks - effectively the AIG-FP unwinds caused massive single name protection buying. This caused single name credit to massively underperform equities - run a chart from say last September to current of say S&P 500 and Itraxx - credit has underperformed massively. This is largely due to AIG-FP unwinds.
I can only guess/extrapolate what sort of PnL this put into the major global banks (both correlation and single names desks) during this period. Allowing for significant reserve release and trade PnL, I think for the big correlation players this could have easily been US$1-2bn per bank in this period."
For those to whom this is merely a lot of mumbo-jumbo, let me explain in layman's terms:
AIG, knowing it would need to ask for much more capital from the Treasury imminently, decided to throw in the towel, and gifted major bank counter-parties with trades which were egregiously profitable to the banks, and even more egregiously money losing to the U.S. taxpayers, who had to dump more and more cash into AIG, without having the U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner disclose the real extent of this, for lack of a better word, fraudulent scam.
In simple terms think of it as an auto dealer, which knows that U.S. taxpayers will provide for an infinite amount of money to fund its ongoing sales of horrendous vehicles (think Pontiac Azteks): the company decides to sell all the cars currently in contract, to lessors at far below the amortized market value, thereby generating huge profits for these lessors, as these turn around and sell the cars at a major profit, funded exclusively by U.S. taxpayers (readers should feel free to provide more gripping allegories).
What this all means is that the statements by major banks, i.e. JPM, Citi, and BofA, regarding abnormal profitability in January and February were true, however these profits were a) one-time in nature due to wholesale unwinds of AIG portfolios, b) entirely at the expense of AIG, and thus taxpayers, c) executed with Tim Geithner's (and thus the administration's) full knowledge and intent, d) were basically a transfer of money from taxpayers to banks (in yet another form) using AIG as an intermediary.
For banks to proclaim their profitability in January and February is about as close to criminal hypocrisy as is possible. And again, the taxpayers fund this "one time profit", which causes a market rally, thus allowing the banks to promptly turn around and start selling more expensive equity (soon coming to a prospectus near you), also funded by taxpayers' money flows into the market. If the administration is truly aware of all these events (and if Zero Hedge knows about it, it is safe to say Tim Geithner also got the memo), then the potential fallout would be staggering once this information makes the light of day.
And here I didn’t think anyone could be worse than Hank Paulson, but Tim Geithner is definitely trying to out Pigman Paulson which is saying a ton. Geither was flat out lying this morning during an interview with George Stephanopoulos, it was so flagrant and disgusting that I had to just walk away from the computer this morning when I read it:
'This Week' Transcript: Timothy Geithner
STEPHANOPOULOS: And some are saying you should go back and recoup on another, much bigger issue having to do with AIG, and that’s all the payments they made to their so-called counterparties. Let me show our viewers who got the money from AIG after they got a government bailout -- $13 billion to Goldman Sachs; $12 billion to Bank of America; more than $30 billion to a series of foreign banks. That has upset a lot of members of Congress. Elijah Cummings and 26 other members of Congress have written a letter saying they want to know why an attempt wasn’t made to renegotiate.
Let me read exactly what they said. “Was any attempt made to renegotiate and close out these contracts with haircuts? If not, why not? What was the benefit of the decision to pay 100 percent of face value to the American taxpayers who provided the bailout funds, and how did it support the goal of ensuring the stability of the economic system?”
Now, Goldman Sachs, for example. Their chief financial officer said he had no material economic exposure to AIG. So why weren’t they forced to take a discount?
GEITHNER: George, we came into this crisis as a country without the tools necessary to contain the damage of a financial crisis like this. In a case of a large, complex institution like AIG, the government has no ability, had no meaningful ability to come in early to help contain the fire, contain the damage, prevent the spread of that fire. Restructure the firm, change contracts where necessary, and helped make sure that the financial system gets through this...
STEPHANOPOULOS: But it would have been the right thing to do, right?
GEITHNER: If we had the legal authority, that’s what we would have done. But without that legal authority, we had no good choices. We were caught between these terrible choices of letting Lehman fail -- and you saw the catastrophic damage that caused to the financial system -- or coming in and putting huge amounts of taxpayer dollars at risk, like we did at AIG, to keep the thing going, unwind it slowly at less damage to the ultimate economy and taxpayer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So how about now, Goldman Sachs is taking other government money. They got this $13 billion whole from AIG. Congressman Brad Sherman and others have said, they should give that $13 billion back.
GEITHNER: George, the important thing is, we have no legal ability now. That’s why I went to Congress last week, to propose a broad change in resolution authority so that we have the capacity to do what we do with banks now.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But wouldn’t it be the right thing for Goldman?
GEITHNER: To give that money back?
GEITHNER: Look, again, the government of the United States in a situation like this has to make sure that we’re containing the damage that might come from default by a major complex financial institution. We need better legal authority to do that, did not have that authority coming into this crisis. It’s a tragic...
STEPHANOPOULOS: So nothing to be done looking back, but going forward, that’s exactly the authority you would want.
GEITHNER: Absolutely. Our obligation now, again, is to defuse and help unwind this deeply complicated problem that AIG presents. But we want to work with the Congress to put in place stronger tools, stronger resolution authority, so the government can come in more quickly, earlier, before things have passed the point of no return, contain the damage, prevent the fire from spreading, restructure the firm, have it emerge stronger, at less risk to the taxpayer. That’s what we need. We should have had this before this crisis, but we didn’t. But we need to move quickly now.
I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Prison would be too good for all these TRAITORS. They better start showing American Idol seven days a week or else the people are going to wake up soon…