Geithnerâs New York Fed Told AIG to Limit Swaps Disclosure By Hugh Son Jan. 7 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, then led by Timothy Geithner, told American International Group Inc. to withhold details from the public about the bailed-out insurerâs payments to banks during the depths of the financial crisis, e-mails between the company and its regulator show. AIG said in a draft of a regulatory filing that the insurer paid banks, which included Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Societe Generale SA, 100 cents on the dollar for credit-default swaps they bought from the firm. The New York Fed crossed out the reference, according to the e-mails, and AIG excluded the language when the filing was made public on Dec. 24, 2008. The e-mails were obtained by Representative Darrell Issa, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The New York Fed took over negotiations between AIG and the banks in November 2008 as losses on the swaps, which were contracts tied to subprime home loans, threatened to swamp the insurer weeks after its taxpayer-funded rescue. The regulator decided that Goldman Sachs and more than a dozen banks would be fully repaid for $62.1 billion of the swaps, prompting lawmakers to call the AIG rescue a âbackdoor bailoutâ of financial firms. âIt appears that the New York Fed deliberately pressured AIG to restrict and delay the disclosure of important information,â said Issa, a California Republican. Taxpayers âdeserve full and complete disclosure under our nationâs securities laws, not the withholding of politically inconvenient information.â President Barack Obama selected Geithner as Treasury secretary, a post he took last year. Bank Payments Issa requested the e-mails from AIG Chief Executive Officer Robert Benmosche in October after Bloomberg News reported that the New York Fed ordered the crippled insurer not to negotiate for discounts in settling the swaps. The decision to pay the banks in full may have cost AIG, and thus taxpayers, at least $13 billion, based on the discount the insurer was seeking. The e-mail exchanges between AIG and the New York Fed over the insurerâs disclosure of the transactions show that the regulator pressed the company to keep details out of the public eye. Issaâs comments add to criticism from Republican lawmakers, including Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa and Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, who wrote letters in the past two months demanding information from Geithner, 48, about the costs of the AIG bailout. Securities Lawyers AIGâs Dec. 24, 2008, filing was challenged privately by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which polices the adequacy of disclosures by publicly traded firms. The agency said in a letter to then-CEO Edward Liddy six days later that AIG should provide a Schedule A, which lists collateral postings for the swaps and names the bank counterparties that purchased them from the company. The Schedule A was disclosed about five months later in a filing. âOur position has always been that if AIGâs securities lawyers determine that AIG is legally obligated to make a particular filing or disclosure, then that is what AIG must do,â said Jack Gutt, a spokesman for the New York Fed, in an e- mailed statement. Gutt said it was appropriate for the New York Fed, as party to deals outlined in the filings, âto provide comments on a number of issues, including disclosures, with the understanding that the final decision rested with AIGâs securities counsel.â Mark Herr, a spokesman for New York-based AIG, declined to comment. Andrew Williams of the Treasury referred questions to the New York Fed. Kathleen Shannon, an AIG deputy general counsel, wrote to the insurerâs executives in a March 12, 2009, e-mail about the conflicting demands from the New York Fed and SEC. âReasonable Basisâ âIn order to make only the disclosure that the Fed wants us to make,â Shannon wrote, âwe need to have a reasonable basis for believing and arguing to the SEC that the information we are seeking to protect is not already publicly available.â AIG disclosed the names of the counterparties, which included Deutsche Bank AG and Merrill Lynch & Co., on March 15. The disclosure said AIG made more than $27 billion in payments without identifying the securities tied to the swaps or listing the value of individual purchases by each bank, details the Fed wanted to keep out, according to the March 12 e-mail from AIGâs Shannon. Earlier that month, Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn testified to Congress that disclosure of the counterparties would harm AIGâs ability to do business. The insurer agreed to turn over a stake of almost 80 percent in connection to its bailout. âNo Mention of the Syntheticsâ The e-mails span five months starting in November 2008 and include requests from the New York Fed to withhold documents and delay disclosures. The correspondence includes e-mails between AIGâs Shannon and attorneys at the New York Fed and its law firm, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP. Tom Orewyler, a spokesman for Davis Polk in New York, declined to comment as did Shannon. According to Shannonâs e-mails obtained by Issa, the New York Fed suggested that AIG refrain in a filing from mentioning so-called synthetic collateralized debt obligations, which bundled derivative contracts rather than actual loans. The filing âreflects your clientâs desire that there be no mention of the synthetics in connection with this transaction,â Shannon wrote to Davis Polk on Dec. 2, 2008. âThey will not be mentioned at all.â AIG had about $9.8 billion of swaps protecting the synthetic holdings as of September 2008, the company said on Dec. 10, 2008. Goldman Sachs said in a press release last month that it was among banks that had losses on synthetic CDOs. As part of a bailout that swelled to $182.3 billion, AIG and the Fed created Maiden Lane III, a taxpayer-funded facility designed to remove mortgage-linked swaps from the insurerâs books. Shannon told the New York Fed on Nov. 24, 2008, that AIG executives wanted to publicly disclose details about Maiden Lane the next day. âGuided by Your Counselâ âDo you think it might be feasible to hold off on the Maiden Lane III 8K and press release until next week?â Brett Phillips, a New York Fed lawyer wrote in an e-mail that day. âThe thinking is that the Maiden Lane III closing will be a less transparent event, and it might be better to narrow the gap between AIGâs announcement and the New York Fedâs publication of term sheet summaries.â âGiven the significance of the transaction, AIG would be best served by filing tomorrow,â Shannon wrote. âWe will of course be guided by your counsel.â The document outlining the Maiden Lane agreement was posted on Dec. 2, 2008. In at least one instance, AIG pushed for documents to be disclosed and then released the information. âBetter Disclosureâ âWe believe that the agreements listed in the index (i.e., the Master Investment and Credit Agreement and the Shortfall Agreement) do not need to be filed,â Peter Bazos, a Davis Polk lawyer wrote on Nov. 25, 2008. âPlease let us know your thoughts in this regard.â AIGâs Shannon replied that âthe better practice and better disclosure in this complex area is to file the agreements currently rather than to delay.â The agreements were included in the Dec. 2 filing. More details of the negotiations over swaps payments emerged in November 2009 when Neil Barofsky, the special inspector in charge of policing the Troubled Asset Relief Program, assessed the Fedâs role in the bailout. âFederal Reserve officials provided AIGâs counterparties with tens of billions of dollars they likely would have not otherwise received,â Barofsky wrote in a Nov. 17 report. âThe default position, whenever government funds are deployed in a crisis to support markets or institutions, should be that the public is entitled to know what is being done with government funds.â AIGâs first rescue was an $85 billion credit line from the New York Fed in September 2008. The bailout was expanded three times and is valued at $182.3 billion. That includes a $60 billion Fed credit line, an investment of as much as $69.8 billion from the Treasury and up to $52.5 billion for Maiden Lane facilities to buy mortgage-linked assets owned or backed by the company.