Edward M. Liddy, the dollar-a-year chief executive leading the American International Group since its bailout last fall, still owns a significant stake in Goldman Sachs, one of the insurer’s trading partners that was made whole by the government bailout of AIG.
Mr. Liddy earned most of his holdings in Goldman, worth more than $3 million total, as compensation for serving on the bank’s board and its audit committee until he stepped down in September to take the job at AIG He moved to AIG at the request of Henry M. Paulson Jr., then the Treasury secretary and a former Goldman director.
Details about his holdings were disclosed in Goldman’s proxy statement and confirmed by an AIG spokeswoman, who said they constituted “a small percentage of his total net worth.” Mr. Liddy had already owned some stock in Goldman Sachs before joining its board in 2003.
He has said that he considers his work at AIG to be a public service, performed on behalf of the taxpayers, who ended up with nearly 80 percent of the insurance company. His goal is to dismantle the company and sell its operating units, using the proceeds to pay back the rescue loans. On Thursday, AIG said it had sold its car insurance unit, 21st Century Insurance, to the Zurich Financial Services Group for $1.9 billion.
Along the way, Mr. Liddy has clearly disclosed that AIG was serving as a conduit, with much of the rescue money passing through and ending up in the hands of AIG’s trading partners.
Goldman has said in the past that it had collateral and hedges to reduce the risk of its exposure to AIG.
Still, his stake could represent a potential conflict and is likely to reignite questions about Goldman’s involvement in AIG, and about why taxpayer money was used to shield AIG’s trading partners from losses, when asset values plunged everywhere and most investors suffered greatly.
Had AIG simply declared bankruptcy, the financial institutions doing business with it would have ended up in court, as they did in the case of Lehman Brothers, fighting to get pennies on the dollar for their claims.
Instead, Goldman Sachs received $13 billion of the Federal Reserve’s rescue money to close out various contracts it had outstanding with AIG It was one of the biggest beneficiaries of the government rescue.
A spokeswoman for AIG, Christina Pretto, dismissed any suggestion that Mr. Liddy’s financial ties to Goldman might have shaped his actions at AIG.
“AIG is a large institution that engages in standard commercial activity with companies all over the world,” Ms. Pretto said. “These activities are handled in the normal, day-to-day course of business and rarely, if ever, rise to the level of the CEO”
She said in particular that Mr. Liddy was not involved in the discussions of how to close out the contracts of AIG’s counterparties in derivatives and other forms of trading.
“Discussions regarding these matters were handled exclusively by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York,” Ms. Pretto said.
According to Goldman’s proxy, Mr. Liddy holds 18,244 units of restricted stock, which would be worth about $2.2 million if they were sold at today’s market price. The rest of his holdings are in common stock. Restricted stock cannot be sold without incurring significant tax penalties, but the proxy said that Mr. Liddy’s restricted units would be converted to common shares on May 9.
Officials at the Fed, which initiated the bailout of AIG last September, have said they were not happy about having to pour public resources into private sector companies, but felt that they had to do so to avoid a chain of losses at financial institutions all over the world.