AIG Already Running Through Government Loans
Still, PricewaterhouseCoopers appears to have pressed for more. In February, AIG said in a regulatory filing that it needed to “clarify and expand” its disclosures about its credit-default
swaps. They had declined not by $1.6 billion, as previously reported, but by $5.9 billion at the end of November, AIG said. PricewaterhouseCoopers subsequently signed off on the company’s accounting while making reference to the material weakness.
Investors shuddered over the revision, driving AIG’s stock down 12 percent. Mr. Vickrey, whose firm grades companies on the credibility of their reported earnings, gave the company an F. Mr. Sullivan, his credibility waning, was forced out months later.
The Losses Grow
Through spring and summer, the company said it was still gathering information about the swaps and tucked references of widening losses into the footnotes of its financial statements: $11.4 billion at the end of 2007, $20.6 billion at the end of March, $26 billion at the end of June. The company stressed that the losses were theoretical: no cash had actually gone out the door.
“If these aren’t cash losses, why are you having to put up collateral to the counterparties?” Mr. Vickrey asked in a recent interview. The fact that the insurer had to post collateral suggests that the counterparties thought AIG’s swaps losses were greater than disclosed, he said. By midyear, the insurer had been forced to post collateral of $16.5 billion on the swaps.
Though the company has not disclosed how much collateral it has posted since then, its $447 billion portfolio of credit-default swaps could require far more if the economy continues to weaken. More federal assistance would then essentially flow through AIG to counterparties.
“We may be better off in the long run letting the losses be realized and letting the people who took the risk bear the loss,” said Bill Bergman, senior equity analyst at the market research company Morningstar.