Bloomberg Stays on AIG

Bloomberg reports that more questions are being raised about AIG’s books. It says it may cost the insurer another $30 billion in writedowns.

An examination of AIG’s credit-default swaps guaranteeing more than $300 billion of corporate loans, mortgages and other assets not covered by a $152.5 billion federal rescue shows the New York-based insurer may value some of its positions at levels that don’t reflect distress in the markets, according to an analyst at Gradient Analytics Inc. and a tax consultant who teaches at Columbia University Business School in New York. Executives at two firms that have similar investments say they account for the securities differently than AIG does.

Bloomberg is good at explaining the context of why this really matters here:

The U.S. rescue plan announced in November, the government’s second effort to save AIG, covers only its most troubled credit-default swaps, about 20 percent of the $377 billion on the insurer’s books as of Sept. 30. Under the plan, a new government-backed entity will acquire collateralized debt obligations with a face value of $72 billion that had been insured by AIG swaps. An initial transfer of $46.1 billion of CDOs was announced on Dec. 2. A second fund bought troubled residential mortgage-backed securities with a face value of $39.3 billion, AIG said on Dec. 15.

Wider losses may cast new doubt on whether the federal funds will be enough to prop up AIG, the biggest U.S. insurer by assets. The U.S. package almost doubled from the $85 billion approved in September to save the company from bankruptcy.

How about a third taxpayer bailout of AIG?

Bloomberg reports that AIG says it doesn’t have to write down the swaps because of the intentions of the banks that bought them, something the news swervice quotes a couple of accounting professors disputing.

While Bloomberg has done excellent reporting on this crisis, a lot of times it’s editing leaves much to be desired. This story is an example of that. The last twelve paragraphs just feel tacked on unnecessarily.

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Ryan Chittum is a former Wall Street Journal reporter, and deputy editor of The Audit, CJR's business section. If you see notable business journalism, give him a heads-up at Follow him on Twitter at @ryanchittum.