Friday, May 29, 2009

Serious Evidence of Fraud

As evidence of dishonesty, Whalen points to AIG’s occasional habit of using secret agreements to falsify financial statements — either its own or those of other companies. In 2005, a former senior executive at the insurer General Re pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to misstate AIG’s finances, after General Re paid $500m in premiums for AIG to reinsure a nonexistent $500m risk. The transaction was a sham; the only economic benefit to either party was the $5.2m fee paid by AIG for Gen Re’s help.

When the $500m in loss reserves were added to AIG’s balance sheet in 2000 and 2001, Greenberg was able to claim an increase in reserves, when in fact they had declined. “They’ll find ways to cook the books, won’t they?” John Houldsworth, the former executive, said in a recorded phone conversation with Elizabeth Monrad, his chief financial officer. She observed that “these deals are a little bit like morphine; it’s very hard to come off of them”.


“The key point that neither the public, the Fed nor the Treasury seems to understand,” says Whalen, “is that the CDS contracts written by AIG were shams, with no correlation between fees paid and the risk assumed. These were not valid contracts but acts to manipulate the capital positions and earnings of financial companies around the world.”

The whole article, by Tim Rayment, is great, and should be read in its entirety.

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