Treasury Plan Now Out. Where’s President and Congress?

The Treasury announcement with respect to using the Fed and Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act to bridge insurer AIG is out. Here is the release:

Release Date: September 16, 2008
For release at 9:00 p.m. EDT

The Federal Reserve Board on Tuesday, with the full support of the Treasury Department, authorized the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to lend up to $85 billion to the American International Group (AIG) under Section 13(3) of the Federal Reserve Act. The secured loan has terms and conditions designed to protect the interests of the U.S. government and taxpayers.

The Board determined that, in current circumstances, a disorderly failure of AIG could add to already significant levels of financial market fragility and lead to substantially higher borrowing costs, reduced household wealth and materially weaker economic performance. 

The purpose of this liquidity facility is to assist AIG in meeting its obligations as they come due. This loan will facilitate a process under which AIG will sell certain of its businesses in an orderly manner, with the least possible disruption to the overall economy.

The AIG facility has a 24-month term. Interest will accrue on the outstanding balance at a rate of three-month Libor plus 850 basis points. AIG will be permitted to draw up to $85 billion under the facility.

The interests of taxpayers are protected by key terms of the loan. The loan is collateralized by all the assets of AIG, and of its primary non-regulated subsidiaries.  These assets include the stock of substantially all of the regulated subsidiaries.  The loan is expected to be repaid from the proceeds of the sale of the firm’s assets. The U.S. government will receive a 79.9 percent equity interest in AIG and has the right to veto the payment of dividends to common and preferred shareholder.

While not unexpected, this is still staggering stuff. And there is lots to be worried about here, including what "collateralized" really means in such a fluid context, and why the U.S. has not been joined by the central banks of any other countries, but I’ll save that for a subsequent post.

For now, I am more adamant than ever that the President and Congress need to get out in front of growing voter anger and confusion before it’s too late. This, plus Lehman, Fannie/Freddie, and Bear Stearns needs to explained to people right now.