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AIG in Hindsight

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  • Robert McDonald
  • Anna Paulson

Abstract

The near-failure on September 16, 2008, of American International Group (AIG) was an iconic moment in the financial crisis. Two large bets on real estate made with funding vulnerable to bank-run-like dynamics pushed AIG to the brink of bankruptcy. AIG used securities lending to transform insurance company assets into residential mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations, ultimately losing at least $21 billion and threatening the solvency of the life insurance companies. AIG also sold insurance on multisector collateralized debt obligations, backed by real estate assets, ultimately losing more than $30 billion. These activities were apparently motivated by a belief that AIG's real estate bets would not suffer defaults and were "money-good." We find that these securities have in fact suffered write-downs and that the stark "money-good" claim can be rejected. Ultimately, both liquidity and solvency were issues for AIG.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert McDonald & Anna Paulson, 2015. "AIG in Hindsight," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 29(2), pages 81-106, Spring.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:jecper:v:29:y:2015:i:2:p:81-106
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/jep.29.2.81
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Blog mentions

    As found by EconAcademics.org, the blog aggregator for Economics research:
    1. FSOC and Systemic Risk: Treasury's Report
      by Steve Cecchetti and Kim Schoenholtz in Money, Banking and Financial Markets on 2017-11-20 20:14:14

    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Corradin, Stefano & Heider, Florian & Hoerova, Marie, 2017. "On collateral: implications for financial stability and monetary policy," Working Paper Series 2107, European Central Bank.
    2. Ralph S.J. Koijen & Motohiro Yogo, 2017. "Risk of Life Insurers: Recent Trends and Transmission Mechanisms," NBER Working Papers 23365, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Nathan Foley-Fisher & Borghan N. Narajabad & Stephane Verani, 2016. "Securities Lending as Wholesale Funding : Evidence from the U.S. Life Insurance Industry," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2016-050, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    4. Allen, Linda & Tang, Yi, 2016. "What’s the contingency? A proposal for bank contingent capital triggered by systemic risk," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 26(C), pages 1-14.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • G01 - Financial Economics - - General - - - Financial Crises
    • G22 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Insurance; Insurance Companies; Actuarial Studies
    • G28 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Government Policy and Regulation
    • G33 - Financial Economics - - Corporate Finance and Governance - - - Bankruptcy; Liquidation
    • H81 - Public Economics - - Miscellaneous Issues - - - Governmental Loans; Loan Guarantees; Credits; Grants; Bailouts

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