This whole AIG fiasco -- where the entire political class is suddenly screaming over bonuses paid to derivative traders in AIG’s financial-products division -- is just a complete farce. What it really shows is how the government has completely bungled the AIG takeover. Blame the Bush administration and the Obama administration. It also shows, once again, why the government shouldn’t run anything, because it cannot run anything.
AIG should have been placed in bankruptcy last fall under some sort of government sponsorship. While in bankruptcy, all the salary contracts (and every other AIG contract) would have been nullified and voided. At the same time, there would have been an orderly liquidation and sale of AIG’s assets and separate divisions.
But as things stand now, there still is no clear roadmap for the dissolution of AIG. There are ideas, but nothing is set in concrete.
And as for the $165 million or so in AIG bonus payments, the Obama administration -- including the president, Treasury man Tim Geithner, and economic adviser Larry Summers -- knew all about them many months ago. They were undoubtedly informed of this during the White House transition.
So there’s no big surprise. Nobody should be shocked. But President Obama is doing his best play-acting ever. He knows full well that the nationwide outcry against federal bailouts and takeovers is only going to get worse on his watch. His poll numbers are already falling, and this AIG episode is going to pull them down more.
Incidentally, has anybody asked Team Obama why it is more than willing to break mortgage contracts with a bankruptcy-judge cram-down, but won’t cram-down compensation agreements for AIG, despite the fact that the U.S. government owns the company? Kind of odd, don’t you think?
The Wall Street Journal editors get it right when they ask: Who’s in charge and what’s the game plan? The whole AIG story is an outrage.
What’s more, AIG is acting as a conduit for taxpayer money that is being sent to dozens of derivative counterparties, including foreign banks and American banks like Goldman Sachs. If we’re going to bail out all these other firms, why not bail them out in full taxpayer view? Why is the money being laundered furtively through AIG? And where exactly is the end game for AIG? How are the taxpayers going to be repaid?