While the Federal Reserve exceeded its authority in the 2008 AIG bailout, the insurer’s former chief executive and other shareholders who sued the federal government are not entitled to damages, a U.S. judge ruled on Monday.
Judge Thomas Wheeler of the Federal Court of Claims in Washington, D.C., agreed with AIG’s ex-CEO Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, 90, and other shareholders that the government showed “unduly harsh treatment” of AIG compared with other institutions it bailed out, Reuters reported.
The federal government’s $85 billion loan package to AIG included an interest rate of 14% and a nearly 80% equity stake. Greenberg, through his company Starr International, was AIG’s largest shareholder at the time of the bailout, with a 12% stake, and was seeking as much as $50 billion in damages on behalf of Starr and about 270,000 other shareholders.
However, Wheeler also ruled that AIG’s shareholders ultimately benefited from the rescue and so the plaintiffs in the case were not awarded damages. The bailout helped AIG stave off bankruptcy after the company ran up billions of dollars in losses stemming from insurance it wrote on shoddy mortgage securities. In 2012 the insurer finished repaying the bailout. U.S. taxpayers eventually reaped nearly $23 billion in profits.
“In the end, the Achilles’ heel of Starr’s case is that, if not for the government’s intervention, AIG would have filed for bankruptcy,” Wheeler wrote.
The judge’s ruling “amounts to a pyrrhic victory that could help shield regulators from legal challenges to their responses in future financial crises,” Reuters wrote.
Meanwhile, Greenberg and Howard Smith, a former AIG financial officer, are facing another trial in a separate lawsuit brought by New York state accusing the two of accounting fraud at AIG from 2000 to 2005. Greenberg was ousted from the New York-based company in 2005 after almost four decades at the helm.