SEC mulled national security status for AIG details
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. securities regulators originally treated the New York Federal Reserve's bid to keep secret many of the details of the American International Group bailout like a request to protect matters of national security, according to emails obtained by Reuters.
The request to keep the details secret were made by the New York Federal Reserve -- a regulator that helped orchestrate the bailout -- and by the giant insurer itself, according to the emails.
The emails from early last year reveal that officials at the New York Fed were only comfortable with AIG submitting a critical bailout-related document to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission after getting assurances from the regulatory agency that "special security procedures" would be used to handle the document.
The SEC, according to an email sent by a New York Fed lawyer on January 13, 2009, agreed to limit the number of SEC employees who would review the document to just two and keep the document locked in a safe while the SEC considered AIG's confidentiality request.
The SEC had also agreed that if it determined the document should not be made public, it would be stored "in a special area where national security related files are kept," the lawyer wrote.
In another email, a New York Fed official said the SEC suggested in late December 2008, that AIG file the document under seal and then apply to the regulatory agency for so-called confidential treatment, if central bankers wanted to stop the information from becoming public.
The emails were included in the mountain of documents the New York Fed turned over last week to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which will hold a hearing Wednesday into the AIG bailout and the New York Fed's role in trying keep the specific terms of that Fed-engineered rescue in November 2008, from being made public.
More than a year later, the Fed's bailout of AIG remains controversial because it funneled nearly $70 billion to 16 big U.S. and European banks that had bought credit default swaps from AIG. Banks like Goldman Sachs Group Inc, Societe Generale and Deutsche Bank had bought those insurance-like derivatives to guard against defaults on hundreds of securities backed by subprime mortgages.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill have labeled the AIG bailout, in which the New York Fed created a special entity to purchase those securities from the banks at essentially their face value, a "backdoor bailout" for the 16 financial institutions.
The new batch of emails, along with others that have become public in recent weeks, reveal that some at the New York Fed had gone to great lengths to keep the terms of the bailout private and the SEC may have played a role in contributing to some of the secrecy surrounding the AIG rescue package.
"The New York Fed was orchestrating what can only be characterized as an extreme effort to ensure that details of the counterparty deal stayed secret," Rep. Darrell Issa from California, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight Committee, said through a spokesman. "More and more it looks as if they would've kept the details of the deal secret indefinitely, it they could have."...MORE...LINK