Against all odds, AIG (NYSE: AIG) was able to survive the financial crisis of 2008 (thanks to large cash infusions from the government.) Now though, their attention has to turned from surviving to going after some of the losses with a goal to return some profitability.
Recently, AIG sued two money management firms in a fight to recoup billions of dollars the bailed-out insurer said it lost due to fraud. The mammoth insurer, which is still 92 percent owned by the U.S. government, sued ICP Asset Management and Moore Capital in New York State Supreme Court. The suit contends that they suffered huge losses by insuring mortgage securities that one of the financial firms created. A spokesman for Moore Capital commented: “We haven’t seen the complaint, and therefore can’t comment on it”, but ICP could not be reached for comment.
Many speculate that this suit represents the start of a much broader campaign to recover some of the losses it suffered as a result of others’ misconduct. The campaign will likely take aim at many Wall Street banks, including Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) and Bank of America Corp (NYSE: BAC). The banks sold AIG mortgage bonds with top-notch ratings that have since plummeted in value.
The lawsuit said the defendants breached obligations to AIG related to the creation of complex collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs. AIG said it has suffered more than $350 million in damages from the alleged misconduct, which included using inflated values on the mortgage bonds that were packaged into the CDOs. By inflating the values, ICP created windfall profits for itself and swelled its management fees. The lawsuit draws on allegations against ICP made by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which last year accused ICP of securities fraud. George Canellos, the director of the SEC’s regional office in New York, declined comment on the AIG suit, citing the pending litigation. The SEC actually also sued ICP in Manhattan federal court last year, accusing the investment advisory firm of repeatedly violating federal securities laws.Canellos characterized the commission’s lawsuit as part of a broad sweep of examinations targeting about 50 financial services firms related to CDOs and other investment vehicles frequently blamed for the collapse of the subprime mortgage market during a conference call with reporters last year.
Bond insurers and investors have already sued the banks on similar grounds, seeking to recover billions of dollars of losses they say were caused by the banks misrepresenting the quality of the home loans that were packaged into bonds. If AIG is successful in this pursuit they may finally be able to begin the long road to recovery.