Goldman Divulges A Bit More About Its AIG Exposure

Goldman continues to maintain that it has fully hedged its risk with AIG. The company also disclosed that it declined to settle any outstanding trades with the insurer at a discount.

David Viniar, Goldman’s CFO, said that the firm felt no compunction to act any differently than what was called for under the terms of its contracts with AIG. Uh-oh, citing contractual obligations is out of vogue in parts of this country.

From MarketWatch, here is a bit of what he had to say:

“We don’t think we did anything wrong,” Viniar continued, explaining that “we had commercial terms. It is our responsibility to our shareholders to make sure that we are protecting ourselves. That’s why we enter into these contracts. That’s why we have terms in the first place, to make sure that we are protected.”
As part of that protection, Goldman also apparently made trades that allowed it to profit from deterioration in AIG’s financial strength — likely based on those collateral calls.
Viniar acknowledged Friday that Goldman profited from AIG’s woes. When asked if the firm made gains over the course of AIG’s deterioration, he said: “Net-net, I would think we had a gain over the time. I don’t think it was particularly material to Goldman Sachs. But net-net, I think we had a gain. I think that gain probably somewhat more than offset the bid-offer spread that we had to pay to put the CDS hedges on.”
I admire his forthrightness but I question his wisdom in making these remarks. It’s the sort of thing that elicits an invitationĀ to D.C. these days.
Once upon a time Goldman’s success in spotting the weakness at AIG and insulating itself would have been heralded as the extraordinarily bright move that it was. No longer. We seem to be evolving a rather different market system.
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