You will hear much more about this topic (AIG and Fed secrecy) here on Friday, but Bloomberg reports the lengths to which the Fed has gone to try to keep the details of Maiden Lane III, the entity created to buy drecky CDOs from AIG counterparties who received 100% credit default swap payouts.
Get a load of this, the Fed was arguing that info IN THE PUBLIC DOMAIN should be treated as confidential! The Ministry of Truth in action:
After media reports that month named some of AIG’s counterparties, AIG executives wrote a draft of a letter to the SEC saying that it intended to withdraw its January request for confidential treatment. Later that March, the New York Fed sent edited versions of another request for confidentiality and provided arguments to help AIG make the case. The SEC granted confidential treatment in May of 2009.
This whole affair puts the Fed in a bad light indeed. The article details how the AIG, pushed by the Fed, made four efforts with the SEC to get information regarding the AIG payouts and Maiden Lane III purchases redacted. AIG seems reluctant, and the SEC, to its credit, did not roll over (although one can argue it in the end conceded too much ground).
And the arguments made by the Fed are rubbish:
On March 5, 2009, Fed Vice Chairman Donald Kohn testified before Congress that disclosure of the counterparties’ names would harm the insurer’s ability to do business. That month, AIG executives told regulators they had no objection to disclosing counterparty names
Yves here. So let’s be clear, the Fed lied to Congress. If there was the potential for this disclosure to damage AIG, they’d be the first to be keen for any excuse to preserve confidentiality.
So then this becomes Iraq, new excuses being offered for a dubious course of action:
“If such information were to become available to traders in such securities, traders would be able to use such information to their advantage, and undercut the ability of Maiden Lane III to sell those assets for the maximum total return, to the detriment of taxpayers and AIG,” the New York Fed said in its Jan. 19 statement.
Yves here. This is illiquid, bespoke paper. If Maiden Lane were to try to sell it, any buyer is going to make an assessment of its fundamental value. And the reports I have gotten is that there is no appetite for CDOs, and for reasons that are unlikely to change. They are too costly to evaluate relative to the potential bargains that might be available. You can do rough pricing using proxies for the various types of collateral, but if you are wrong, you can wind up with an instrument that really is worthless. Why bother taking the risk, particularly given how illiquid the paper is?
In the end, the Fed sought over 1000 redactions and got in excess of 400.
So we have the specter of one regulator pushing a public company to operate in a way it clearly is not comfortable with, to get another regulator to bend the rules. If this isn’t further proof the Fed needs to be leashed and collared, I don’t know what is.