AIG reveals counterparties to collateral postings

UPDATE 26 Mar 2009: Paul Kedrosky has a good post up on how collateral in CDS contracts work.  See Collateral 101: How It Works at AIG and Elsewhere

Back on March 6th, I noted that the nationalized insurance company AIG had settled Credit Default Swaps contracts with a number of counterparties at the top of the market. In effect, AIG was offering a hidden subsidy to its counterparties by settling the contracts and exchanging collateral for money at inflated prices.

As an example, imagine AIG made a deal with Goldman Sachs to make Goldman whole if Company X defaulted on its bond payments. In this arrangement, Goldman might hold bonds of Company X (and then again, it might not) against which it wanted downside protection via this contract with AIG. Now, after Lehman Brothers defaulted, in all likelihood the price of downside protection for Company X skyrocketed along with the Credit Default Swaps of all other companies. That means any contractual settlement during the time frame of market dislocation was made at unrealistically high levels which no insurer would reasonably accept… that is, except AIG. Goldman would be receiving money that it would not normally receive were it not for the fact that AIG was controlled by the Federal Reserve.

This is the crux of the issue. AIG was effectively nationalized. Thereafter it settled contractual arrangements which it was under no obligation to settle at prices which reflected an enormous premium due to dislocated markets. Therefore, the company gave free money to its counterparties — all large international financial institutions. By the way, many of these institutions are not even American companies.

Who ended up footing the bill? American taxpayers.

On the back of recent outsized bonus revelations at AIG, those in the know about this are indignant. As a result, AIG has released a list of counterparties which Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Donald Kohn had originally refused to give. Below is the document detailing these activities.


  1. teapack says

    hi, collateral is required when the counterparty is not sure that AIG is safe…but when the price of protection goes down, will the counyerparty return collateral to aig?

    1. Edward Harrison says


      my understanding is that AIG has fully unwound the relevant contracts and have received the collateral in exchange for the funds. Therefore, the collateral will never be returned. The contracts are settled. For more on how the CDS market, see my post:



  2. Sobers says

    Why do this now? Presumably the only reason to settle these contracts now( at inflated prices) is because you think they underlying debt is dodgy in the extreme, and you’ll end up paying out more later. Otherwise why not just wait and see who actually goes bust and pay out on an individual basis?

    Or is is some sneaky way for the Fed to pump money into the system without too much media interest?

  3. Edward Harrison says


    my view is that they have done so because they are subsidizing global banks in a way they thought less likely to be revealed to the public as such. if they had gone and handed these banks money directly, that would have been scandalous. However, that is effectively what has been done surreptiously.

    I believe they erred in assuming it would not be found out. The most scandalous thing for Americans I reckon, is the fact that most of the banks are foreign. So we are seeing taxpayer money used to help out foreign banks while ordinary Americans suffer. Not very equitable, if you ask me.

  4. Ranger Turtle says

    I hate the ‘AIG bonuses’ and ‘paying foreign banks with our money’, and I’m wondering what the amount of CDS left to be paid-out is, where it will go, and how long until we can shut down the government ownership/obigations involved with AIG.
    Also, regulations must be put in place FAST, in order to NOT make more AIGs.

Comments are closed.

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