2008 NY Fed advice puts skids under Treasury Secretary Geithner

Emails obtained by Congressman Darrell Issa suggest the New York Federal Reserve told insurance giant AIG not to disclose details about its bank payments during the 2008 financial meltdown.

AIG, the American International Group Incorporated, was bailed out with taxpayer money and was advised by the New York Federal Reserve, then headed by current U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, to limit disclosure about payments made to banks.

Issa, a Republican member of the House of Representative’s Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has obtained the emails, which show that the New York Federal Reserve deleted references to 100 cents on the dollar being paid by AIG to banks, including Goldman Sachs Group and Societe Generale, on credit defaults swaps in AIG’s regulatory filing of December 24, 2008.

“It appears that the New York Fed deliberately pressured AIG to restrict and delay the disclosure of important information,” said Issa, who added that taxpayers “deserve full and complete disclosure under our nation’s securities laws, not the withholding of politically inconvenient information.”

The credit default swaps, which were tied to subprime home loans, pushed financial industry heavyweights, including AIG and key banks, to the brink in late 2008 in the wake of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns. Shortly beforehand, the U.S. government had placed the Federal National Mortgage Association, better known as Fannie Mae, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation, or Freddie Mac, into conservatorship.

The New York Federal Reserve took over negotiations between AIG and banks after its taxpayer-funded rescue. It decided that key banks would be fully repaid for $62.1 billion worth of credit default swaps, leading some to claim that the AIG bailout was focused on saving key banks in the system. It is believed that AIG was looking for a $13 billion discount on the payments to banks, but it was advised not to seek the discount, and taxpayers subsequently paid the bill.

Questions have been raised about the role played by Geithner, at the time still head of the New York Federal Reserve. U.S. Treasury spokespersons have declared that Geithner played no role in the advice and had recused himself from dealing with specific companies earlier in anticipation of his nomination as Secretary to the Treasury in the Obama administration.