Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Biting the Hand that Feeds

AIG, the battered titan of investment banking, is considering whether to join in a lawsuit against the US government for bailing it out. That's right, AIG pleaded for a government bailout to save it from going belly up back in 2007/08. Now, in 2013, they are considering whether to sue the government for about half the amount they just finished paying back!

It's insanity at its finest. The basis for the lawsuit is that the government violated the 5th Amendment, amounting to an illegal seizure of property without just compensation. This argument is being made because the government took an ownership share of AIG stock (over 90%) when it bailed them out. That stock was slowly returned to shareholders of AIG as the company paid back the government. The shareholders are now complaining that they didn't make as much money as they would have if the government hadn't been involved, a ridiculous notion since there would be no AIG to earn money from at all if it hadn't received a bailout (at least according to conventional understanding).

Keep in mind, many of the people who now complain about government bailouts demanded them when Bush was in office and signed off on them. Furthermore, many economists now say and have said since their inception that they need not have happened at all. Indeed, institutions like AIG created the very crises that they then benefited from by taking bailout money.

The irony, once again, is that AIG shareholders are complaining about a loss on their investment, when they would have lost so much more if it had not been for government intervention. And this is the real point of the issue: the same people who want a small, ineffective government are simultaneously the ones who demand support from the government for themselves. Consider it. These are people who essentially publicized their losses, and are now trying to privatize what they perceive as their rightful gains. It is preposterous.

I hope that AIG backs off from this, because it would be unfair, unkind, unethical, and irrational. Then again, that seems to fit the standard model of practice for these types of firms, so I suppose the battle is already won. US government, prepare to pay AIG for all the pain and suffering you caused when you saved their sorry, ungrateful asses.

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