Echoing state regulators’ statements, the company said the interdependency of its businesses posed no problem and strongly disputed that any units had obligations they could not pay.
“There is absolutely no concern about the capital in these companies,” said Rob Schimek, the chief financial officer of AIG’s property and casualty insurance business. The company authorized him to speak about these issues.
Nothing is wrong with spreading risks to other companies, a practice known as reinsurance, when it is carried out with unrelated, solvent companies. It can also be acceptable in small amounts between related companies. But AIG’s companies have reinsured each other to such a large extent, experts say, that now billions of dollars worth of risks may have ended up at related companies that lack the means to cover them.
“An organization like this one relies on constant, ever-growing premium volume, so it can cover and pay for the deficits,” said W. O. Myrick, a retired chief insurance examiner for Louisiana.
If AIG’s incoming premiums shrink, he warned, “the whole thing’s going to collapse in on itself.”
Myrick has not fully examined all the AIG subsidiaries but said his own recent review of many state filings raised serious concerns, particularly about the use of reinsurance to “bounce things around inside the holding company group.”
“That is a method used by holding companies to falsify the liabilities,” he said.
AIG’s premiums have, in fact, been declining in important lines. Its ratings have fallen, and customers tend to steer clear of lower-rated insurers. To woo them back, AIG has in some cases lowered its prices, competitors say. AIG executives insist they would rather lose a customer than drive down prices dangerously.
AIG has also pledged a share of its life insurance premiums to the Fed, to pay back about $8 billion. Details have not been provided, but consumer advocates say it is not clear how the life companies will pay future claims if their premiums are diverted.
“Eventually, there’s going to be a battle between the policyholders and the feds,” said Thomas D. Gober, a former insurance examiner who now has his own forensic accounting firm that specializes in insurance fraud. “The Fed is going to say, ‘We want our money back,’ but the law says, ‘Policyholders come first.’ It’s going to be ugly.”
Gober is a consultant for a lawsuit on behalf of AIG policyholders, filed in California Superior Court in Los Angeles. The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring all AIG subsidiaries doing business in California to put enough money to cover their obligations into a secure account controlled by the state treasurer.
The goal is to keep money from being moved out of California or used to finance AIG’s other activities, said Maria C. Severson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs. The lawsuit also seeks to bar AIG companies from soliciting new business without full disclosure of their financial condition.