In the face of mounting public outrage, AIG has revealed how it spent $75 billion of taxpayer money, a sum that amounts to less than half of the government’s $170 billion bailout of the firm. AIG says it gave a sizable chunk of the money to banks, including foreign institutions, and spent a pretty penny to cover junk investments.
More than $34 billion of the money went to trading partners of AIG Financial Products, the small subsidiary whose exotic derivatives brought AIG to the edge of collapse. In recent years, the firm had written massive numbers of credit-default swaps, insurance-like contracts that other companies bought as protection against the default of mortgage-backed securities. When the housing boom began to go bust, banks that had purchased the swaps demanded collateral from AIG, burying the company under a tidal wave of debt. Federal officials, wanting to keep the company from failing because they feared it was too intertwined with the global economy, stepped in to help.
In the last months of 2008, AIG Financial Products paid more than $22 billion in taxpayer money to satisfy debts caused by its swap contracts. Another $12 billion went to pay off municipalities in dozens of states for whom the firm had created complex investment agreements.
Nearly $44 billion went to pay debts that AIG incurred under its “securities lending” program, according to the company. In those instances, various companies borrowed securities from AIG in exchange for cash. In turn, AIG invested much of the money in mortgage-backed assets that plummeted in value, leaving the insurer on the hook for billions.