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The Almighty Buck United States Politics

Call To "Open Source" AIG Investigation 259

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-looking-for-somebody-to-crucify dept.
VValdo writes "As you may recall, the citizens of the US shelled out about $85 billion to bail out AIG and its creditors (Goldman Sachs in particular) last year. But as 80% owners of AIG, we still don't know what happened, exactly. That may change. In a new op-ed piece, former prosecutors (including former NY governor Eliot Spitzer) are calling for the US Treasury to force AIG to release its treasure-trove of emails to the public before allowing AIG to 'break free' of our control. As the prosecutors put it, 'By putting the evidence online, the government could establish a new form of "open source" investigation. Once the documents are available for everyone to inspect, a thousand journalistic flowers can bloom, as reporters, victims and angry citizens have a chance to piece together the story.' Good idea?"
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Call To "Open Source" AIG Investigation

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  • Rigghttt... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    That's a good one. Goldman Sachs and Lehman Bros ARE the government.

  • Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by selven (1556643) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:42AM (#30503824)

    We own 80% of AIG, so 80% of AIG is technically part of the federal government. That means we should have open access to everything just like we should have open access to the Congress, senate, court system, etc.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      The couter-argument is that opening the bank would make it less competitive, and so less likely to repay its debt to us. Is it true? I don't know.
      • Re:Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MikeURL (890801) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:52AM (#30504208) Journal
        If Americans accept this argument then they can expect the government to simply keep the spigots open and funnel every last dollar in the economy to wealthy people. Those wealthy people will then give the people elected ever more money so they can stay in power.

        At some point there is a level of apathy that will almost force people in power to behave badly. If you kick someone in the balls and they smile and give you a $100 bill then eventually you will not only do a LOT of kicking but you also come to hate that stupid smiling face.
        • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by tuxgeek (872962) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:46PM (#30505530)

          The American political system has evolved today into one that the only people capable of buying their way into congress are the Donald Trumps and Bernie Madoffs
          Once in there the only legislation passed are bills that favor them and the wealthy class

          The best example I can think of right now is the Health Care reform clusterfuck. The root of our problem is the insurance industry. They are raping the system and all citizens and are the cause of the escalating costs of medical care. So what do our representatives do? They move to require all citizens to buy insurance or face a fine for not being wealthy enough to afford it. Does anyone really think people working at walmart can afford insurance if it isn't given to then as a benefit? The insurance industry is the same as the financial industry. Controlled and run by greedy corporate scum like Madoff.

          I say sack them all and start over with a clean slate. I'm not the only one thinking violent revolution may be our only way out of this quagmire. I hear this idea more each day from people on the street. Those that have lost their homes and/or life savings and now watch as we fork over billions of public tax dollars to the scum responsible.

          Not a good sign

          • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

            by FiloEleven (602040) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:57PM (#30506106)

            The root of our problem is the insurance industry.

            That's an awfully simplistic explanation. I am very much against the current health care legislation for a number of reasons including the one you mentioned, but the truth is that the problem has many roots; including the insurance industry, hospitals, government, and patients themselves. NPR's This American Life did a show [thisamericanlife.org] on it that highlights the complexity of the issues. There's plenty of blame to go around and IMO the insurance companies deserve less blame than government, which through wage freezes essentially kicked the insurance companies from a primary market of individuals to a market of corporations. Hospitals vary their charges (sometimes by a factor of 10) for identical procedures depending on how many patients use that insurance company. Doctors are afraid of liability if they don't run a requested test even if it's in the patient's best interest to remain untested.

            The health insurance industry doesn't get off easy--there's a second show [thislife.org] devoted entirely to it. It's a huge mess. But here's the thing: they're not really like the financial industry. They seek profits, like everyone else, but they have been demonized. Their hands are tied by hospitals, and they are left with the choice of raising premiums for everyone or dropping the policies of people in areas where they have little clout with hospitals. IMO their biggest failing is that they don't care about the patient: they approve lots of unnecessary procedures because much of their profit lies in the volume of claims they process.

            "Clusterfuck" is an appropriate term, because it's a whole lot of things gone wrong all at once. Without having a clear understanding of the problem, you can be sold a bill of goods like the current legislation. You've seen through this bill, but enough people haven't that it's still creeping along. It's important to get the shape of the problem so that if we get rid of this bill it won't be replaced by something equally awful.

            • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Interesting)

              by AK Marc (707885) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @04:55PM (#30506526)
              If we have "universal" health care, then insurance should go away. I couldn't find how much of premiums went to actual services, but it, from a glance, looked like it was about 10% loss between overhead and profit. So, if we abolish insurance, and just have payment come from the government in all cases, with no claims adjusters, just fraud-prevention, it should cut more than $200,000,000,000 from our national costs of health care. I know that's a small number, but every hundred billion helps.

              A unified systems of risk management with limitations on liability will have those that need tests get them, and those that don't need them not be given them. One of the highest rising parts of health care is the tests. There are more, and they are expensive. And everyone getting them because their doctor doesn't want to get sued is wasting money.

              And, of course, another way to keep costs down is to reduce work on those with less life left. The costs are increasing because there are more old people. Death can't be prevented, no matter how much is spent. Work on making sure the quality is good, and less on preventing it for those that are headed there because of age. But that's considered political suicide because of the AARP voting bloc.

              So yes, there are factors, and insurance is a big one out of it, and not the only one. But it's an easy target and should be a good starting point.
            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              The explanation is simplistic. The solution is not. Single payer systems like Canada's work in virtually every other capitalist democracy. Are they perfect and trouble free? No. Are they better than ours? It would seem so (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_care_compared#Cross-country_comparisons). Saying that this wouldn't work *here* is just a way of saying that Americans are too stupid and lame to do what virtually every other advanced industrialized country has done.

              The simple, logical, thing would be

    • Not quite (Score:3, Informative)

      by SlappyBastard (961143)

      Being 80% owned does not integrate a corporation into the entity that owns it. Trust me, Verizon has been using the exact theory for decades to lock Verizon Wireless workers out of the main Verizon company's collective bargaining agreement. Also, ask the Rigases (who owned Adelphia) if full ownership entitles you to complete run of the company -- it can be a jailable offense if you go about owning the company you own to aggressively.

      A stockholder company has a wide range of fiduciary issues. It's very li

      • So your argument is, that because Verizon did it, that’s what will happen?

        Yeah. Right.

        Let’s formalize that:

        $evilCompany did $evilAction.
        Therefore $everybody will do $evilAction.

        So essentially you miss a central link here. And the only link that I can see, that would fit, is:

        $everybody is like $evilCompany.

        Sorry, but I don’t follow that. Even if $everybody in this context is narrowed down as much as possible.

      • Plus the government does not own a single voting share, the 85 billion was for 80% equity stake, all this means is that if AIG sells it self the government gets 80%, further the terms of the buyback were just that a certain interest rate was to be payed to buy back the notes.
      • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Informative)

        by Ramze (640788) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @01:49PM (#30505176)
        Nope... you and whomever modded this as +5 informative needs a course in business law. Owning 51% or more in a company gives you complete and unquestionable authority over what actions a company can take unless a signed contract says otherwise or your shares are specifically "non-voting" stock. If the Fed. govt. as 80% owner decided to release all documents or even liquidate the company, the owners of the other 20% would have no say at all and no legal recourse.
        • Re:Not quite (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Late Adopter (1492849) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @04:00PM (#30506134)
          Neither of you cited your claims, but I'm fairly sure it's actually the GP who has it right. Dodge v. Ford established that even a majority shareholder has some basic responsibility to the minority holders, which would preclude actions that would harm the shareholders for no clear benefit to the company. This is sometimes raised out of context on Slashdot to falsely claim that a business must by law maximize profit, but the basic principle is of a similar vein: you can't just water down the value of your shareholder's shares for nothing (as in the Ford case).
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by HeLLFiRe1151 (743468)
      My mortgage company owns 80% of my house but I don't want them coming in whenever they feel like it. Yes, shareholders should know some things such as pay, retirements, investments and investigations. If you opened up everything and every secret you are just giving an advantage to your competitors, who don't have to disclose certain details of their business.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @01:24PM (#30504974)

        There's a difference between having 80% ownership of a corporation and owning indebtedness of 80% of a loan for the agreed value of a property. The bank can only ask you to satisfy the debt owed, not vote upon your decisions dealing with the property nor claim ownership before foreclosure.

      • by Ramze (640788)
        Unless you live in a mobile home where the mortgage company owns the title to your home until you complete the terms of your contract, your mortgage company does not own any part of your home. Your home is merely collateral which can be seized to repay any portion of the amount of your contract you are unable or unwilling to pay.
    • by furball (2853)

      The question then is whether the information we're looking part of the 80% or is it part of the 20%? What if they just average it out and only give us 80% of every meg of data as an example?

  • Keep Dreaming (Score:4, Informative)

    by arcticinfantry (1130171) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:42AM (#30503828)
    This will *never* happen. GS is far too powerful to let that happen. The AIG bailout was quite simply a giveaway to GS.
  • No (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cheesybagel (670288) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:42AM (#30503830)
    No, not a good idea. What is the point in having a Cultural Revolution? Better to just split these companies which are too big to fail into smaller chunks, kick out the top management making sure they never work in that capacity anymore, enforce layers of separation between businesses and let them free. Restore the Glass–Steagall Act and separate commercial banking from investment banking.
    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:48AM (#30503866)

      We need that and a 'Cultural Revolution' that fights back against the idea that the upper class knows what's best for the rest of us and that any attempt to eek out even 4% more of their wealth from them is not socialism at all.

      • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

        by trout007 (975317) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:10AM (#30503976)
        You have it completely backwards. I'm a libertarian but the one place the socialists have it right is that "some" of the rich steal it from the "workers". The problem as I see it with the socialists is that they don't distinguish how people get rich. There are people that get rich by making things that people value ie, computers, software, entertainment, machines, goods, services. Then there are those that actually steal it which are the bankers, lawyers, and investment houses. The bankers steal it because they have had laws written that allow them to create money out of thin air and lend it with interest. What happens when money is created out of nothing is a little bit is stolen from everyone holding that currency by inflation. So they can become famously rich without doing anything of value. And of course they gamble that money they created at 30 to 1 leverage which makes them even richer. And when the whole gamble fails to pay off they just run to their lawyer friends in DC and get bailed out claiming that if they go down so will the country. Well I call BS. If they were allowed to fail we would have a serious deflation with all of their fake money getting destroyed. As long as minimum wage laws were repealed all prices would drop and those that were thrifty and saved money would do much better because those dollars would be worth more. But of course we can't have that so the Federal Reserve creates even more money (stealing it through inflation) to give to their buddies.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by wons0000 (1704448)
          "What happens when money is created out of nothing is a little bit is stolen from everyone holding that currency by inflation." -Yes but only in the short term. This is not a 0-sum economy. The inflation would be offset with growth in the economy....the question is how long till things even out. The myth of the whole economy downturn is only a few reaped its benefits. The top brings the middle (and some times the bottom) with it when it grows. Main street doesn't exist without Wall street....at least not
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by linzeal (197905)
          As an engineer and inventor I disagree. Sometimes corporations utilize their power ( money, markey position, etc ) in any industry to steal from the workers. Look at Intel, imagine how real competition would of lowered prices over the past 10 years and what we could of done with that money.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Gorobei (127755)

          Um, I write software for an investment house. Where do I fall on your libertarian scale of social value?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          The bankers steal it because they have had laws written that allow them to create money out of thin air and lend it with interest. What happens when money is created out of nothing is a little bit is stolen from everyone holding that currency by inflation. So they can become famously rich without doing anything of value.

          Not quite. The major problem in the current situation is because bankers have started including investing houses. Banking is supposed to provide reliable, low-interest, low-return loans as

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by TubeSteak (669689)

          I'm a libertarian

          The fact that an ideologues like Bush Jr. & Dick Cheney went ahead with the bailout should tell you what a bad idea "let them fail" is.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mjwx (966435)

          You have it completely backwards. I'm a libertarian but the one place the socialists have it right is that "some" of the rich steal it from the "workers".

          Unfortunately Libertarianism is the fungus in which this behaviour grows.

          A completely unregulated (anarchistic) capitalist system fails for the same reasons a completely unregulated (anarchistic) socialist system fails. It relies on everyone thinking the same and following unenforced and unwritten rules, the system breaks down when one person decides

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Yeah, nice idea, but you'd need a legion of Paul Bunyan's to do that. Obama would probably chop his foot off on the first swing.
    • The point is that we won't get congress or etc. to split them up without having people really get mad and the only way to get people mad enough to care may be this email thing.

    • by timeOday (582209)

      Better to just split these companies which are too big to fail into smaller chunks

      That wouldn't work, the banks are all interconnected through loans and insurance policies, if some start to fail they all fail.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Rich0 (548339)

        Well, the dicing up will limit the power of individual banks.

        However, you are correct that the problem was that EVERYBODY was acting stupid. The problem is that when all your competitors are making risky loans and selling them to investors as safe loans you have two choices:

        1. Do the same thing.
        2. Watch all the investors pull out all of their money and give it to those who do #1.

        After all, if you're an investor, which fund would you invest in? The AAA bond fund yielding 15%, or the AAA bond fund yieldin

        • by shentino (1139071)

          I think the insurance industry needs the same sort of backing that the FDIC gives our banking system.

          At a minimum I think it would be prudent to require an insurance company to carry a government backed surety bond to ensure that clients get paid their settlements even if the company goes tits up.

          I say government backed because asking the insurance industry to insure itself is a circular nightmare.

          • by causality (777677)

            I think the insurance industry needs the same sort of backing that the FDIC gives our banking system.

            At a minimum I think it would be prudent to require an insurance company to carry a government backed surety bond to ensure that clients get paid their settlements even if the company goes tits up.

            I say government backed because asking the insurance industry to insure itself is a circular nightmare.

            The only difference between the bailouts and an FDIC-like system is that the FDIC-like system is negotiated and its terms are spelled out before something goes wrong. Otherwise they are the same.

          • Moral hazard ... (Score:3, Insightful)

            IMO FDIC is an abomination ... government bonds should be the investment of choice for people who want to have guaranteed savings (and private citizens should be first in line during issuance). Banking and other types of investment should be for people who want to bear the risks. Implicit or explicit insurance for financial instruments causes moral hazard.

            • I take it that your paycheck is automatically converted into gold coins for storage in your mattress?

          • by jcr (53032)

            I think the insurance industry needs the same sort of backing that the FDIC gives our banking system.

            You want insurers to all buy into a single backer, so that they'll fail en masse instead of individually?

            -jcr

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          I'm with you. I think having banks that are nation-wide is very risky. Having that much cash in one place invites all sorts of corruption (the ultimate example being the federal government). My current bank is getting rather large through mergers and expansions and it has me worried. I'd support breaking banks into regional/state entities.
        • Indeed. 401ks and other retirement funds are kind of a scam in themselves. The liquidity you sacrifice by having your wealth tied up might very well not be offset by the (uncertain due to the shifting nature of politicians sticking their thumbs on in the tax pot all the time) tax savings.

        • Re:No (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Znork (31774) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @12:59PM (#30504774)

          However, you are correct that the problem was that EVERYBODY was acting stupid.

          Fundamentally, the Fed was forcing everybody to act stupid. Central banking works by artificially changing rates outside actual market rate. That the function by which the Fed can dictate that, either you "invest" (speculate), or your money gets eaten by inflation (the actual which has little to do with normally reported numbers).

          The thing is, it's not that investors are insulated from investment decisions, it's that they have no control over the game either way. They, or their representatives, do what they're told, invest in whatever bubble the Fed blows, or they get reamed anyway by funding the bill for the crash. There may not be an educated choice to make, everyone may know that it's a bubble that's gonna crash, but either you're in on it, or your money gets depreciated anyway.

      • What we really need is a giant freaking RESET button. Everybody's debt and credit is now at 0. You have what you have, start over. And be smarter this time.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Cyner (267154)

      I agree, the public is just going to crucify the company. We need to move forward, fix the problems, and make sure they don't happen again.

      On the other hand, this might be a great learning exercise for academia. It might be nice if accredited institutions could review a portion of the details in the interests of study cases; particularly a business ethics class (no that's not an oxymoron).

      • Re:No (Score:5, Interesting)

        by causality (777677) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @12:05PM (#30504316)

        I agree, the public is just going to crucify the company. We need to move forward, fix the problems, and make sure they don't happen again.

        On the other hand, this might be a great learning exercise for academia. It might be nice if accredited institutions could review a portion of the details in the interests of study cases; particularly a business ethics class (no that's not an oxymoron).

        Business ethics: if it's legal, do it for short-term profit with no regard for side-effects, long-term losses, or harm that it might cause to other people. If it's not legal, grease the right palms until it becomes legal.

    • by tomhath (637240)

      Restore the Glass–Steagall Act and separate commercial banking from investment banking.

      Yes, several harmful changes to banking laws made during the nineties need to be rolled back, including the the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act [wikipedia.org] as it was pushed through by Sens. Dodd and Schumer. Also the amendments passed in 1992 [wikipedia.org] which mandated banks make high risk loans they wouldn't have made otherwise.

      • If you want high rates of return, you've got to make high risk loans-- and hide the risk.

      • Well those probably should be repealed ... but to say the banks wouldn't have made those loans otherwise is silly. There was literally no risk in making those loans. Hundreds of subprime lenders were set up in fact just to make those kind of loans without any need for government pressure. The risk was in buying MBS's build on those loans ... but no law mandated anyone to do that, and yet so many did because of misplaced trust in Moody's/etc. The problem is that the market can't recognize (systemic) risk.

        • Actually, once the big banks stopped buying mortgage backed securities, the mortgage brokers were left with quite a bit of risk...

    • only too true (Score:3, Insightful)

      by gadget junkie (618542)

      No, not a good idea. What is the point in having a Cultural Revolution? Better to just split these companies which are too big to fail into smaller chunks, kick out the top management making sure they never work in that capacity anymore, enforce layers of separation between businesses and let them free. Restore the Glass–Steagall Act and separate commercial banking from investment banking.

      That fits with my idea that the standard politician idea of going after bankers' salaries and bonuses [ft.com] is moronic. The crux of the problem is how fat the BANKS get, not how they pay bigwigs.

      One more comment: all governments seem bent on getting aid money back from the banking system ASAP, and the Herds are mooing that that's a good thing; but if you consider that the regulations of the banking system is more or less what it was when Lehman went under, central bankers included, I see it more as a "blank

      • by causality (777677)

        That fits with my idea that the standard politician idea of going after bankers' salaries and bonuses [ft.com] is moronic. The crux of the problem is how fat the BANKS get, not how they pay bigwigs.

        It's not really moronic; it's deliberate. It's actually quite clever, though in an evil sort of way. The point of that is to satisfy the visceral outrage of their constituents without having to actually address the real problem.

        If the politicians did otherwise, they'd be backstabbing the people who got them

  • Wonderfull Idea (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:43AM (#30503832)

    Put PJ in charge! :)

  • Hrmm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by acehole (174372) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:43AM (#30503842) Homepage

    Unlike movies, the guys in high places taking home the multimillion dollar salaries 99% of the time dont get caught. They cover for each other.

    Sad fact of life,

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by kmac06 (608921)

      Unlike movies, the guys in high places taking home the multimillion-dollar salaries 99% of the time don't do anything wrong.

      Happy fact of capitalism.

  • The Risk (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:47AM (#30503864)

    As purported owners of 80% of AIG, shouldn't taxpayers also be concerned that the information released could compromise the viability of their investment necessary to regain their lost billions?

    I'd love to know what happened but I also want the money they took from me plus an onerous amount of interest. I think the interest will discourage them (and anyone who looks up to their executives as examples of how to rape taxpayers) from repeating their greed/mistakes. Of course what they really deserved was to sink like the anchors they were... Seriously, if you divide the TARP bailout money it comes out to $20,000 per US citizen. My savings and investments can't cover that level of corporate charity disguised as taxes.

  • by Dr_Ken (1163339) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:50AM (#30503876) Journal
    this stuff too? Who pays the piper calls the tune. I have to sign away exclusive publishing rights to any work I do with gov funding (no matter how peripheral or limited) if I accept it. AIG should get no waiver on that score either imho.
    • When they released the Enron emails for that particular court case, the academics had a field day: behold! a real live data set of emails. It was useful for the study of text mining techniques: throw some algorithms at it and see the emails automatically classified into categories, and then look and see that this category has all the fantasy-football, and this one has the defraud-the-shareholders, and this other one....
  • Which is why it will never, never happen. You'll learn the truth about Roswell and JFK before you see those emails.

    • You'll learn the truth about Roswell and JFK before you see those emails.

      Wait, JFK landed in a flying saucer in 1947?!? But that means GHW Bush saved the world from alien overlords in '63...

  • If they can somehow ensure that the identity of the bank's customers will not be released or revealed, then I have no problem with the books being opened.

  • Ummm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @10:54AM (#30503904)

    We know exactly what happened... a few *idiots* in AIG's derivatives trading department thought they could sell credit default swaps on mortgage backed securities without keeping *anything* in reserve. It's actually a great strategy... unless housing prices go down, in which case you will take huge, mind-boggling losses. Essentially a few people in one department of an otherwise well run institution took down the whole thing by drastically underestimating risk.

    Credit default swaps are an insurance product. If you sell them, then you had better keep proper reserves to cover claims AND you had better buy reinsurance in case there is a market downturn. AIG did neither and went kaput.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mbone (558574)

      We know exactly what happened... a few *idiots* in AIG's derivatives trading department...

      Sorry, but I don't buy it. My experience is that idiocy generally starts at the top, but it doesn't really matter. Like the Captain of a ship, the people at the top of a company should be responsible in any case, even if they didn't know.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:04AM (#30503942)

    This is a great idea, but it is POST-crash thinking. That's how prosecutors think: They wait for something bad to happen, see blood in the water and then look for the crime. Certainly this is a part of how regulation must happen.

    But, there is an even more powerful, I would say way more powerful, idea lurking behind what they are considering: Why not "open source" the whole industry? For example:

      o Have open source analytics that measure risk and values and apply those analytics against firm positions to show aggregate exposures and stress values? The recent "stress tests" that were performed against the banks were generally considering quite weak by industry standards. For example, they were based on single scenarios being applied against option-like positions. And, the scenarios were simply housing and interest rate related but not further defined by prepayment and default models. A full analytics package applied with monte carlo methods would give a much more robust answer of the true risks. Shouldn't we know exactly what exposure all large firms have? If the market has much more information on the risks that various firms are taking, it will be much easier to reward good decisions and punish bad ones.

      o Force all firms of a given size to publish their largest counter-party exposures on a daily basis. If I own BAC and they are long AIG, shouldn't I as a shareholder be able to see the exposure? Shouldn't anyone be able to see that, for the benefit of the whole? If you produce enough of the counter-party graph connectedness, the market will have much more information on system stability and be able to punish/reward bad/good decisions.

      o Shouldn't we be able to see prices of ALL transactions that occur in the capital markets? This is a pretty simple database: CUSIP, Date/Time, Amount, Price. Currently members of the public can only see corporate and (I believe) muni prices. What about MBS/ABS/CMBS/CDO/CLO etc? Also, for OTC transactions there could be other databases that show counter-parties, etc.

      o How about seller transparency in fixed income markets? If an MBS deal is coming to market, shouldn't the buyers get access to all material information the sellers have? This would allow for a market where the buyers can actually price risk without massive information asymmetry.

      o Getting back to open source analytics, having such analytics (paid for by the large financial firms and produced by independent modelers) would greatly help the fractured buy-side firms who simply can't otherwise compete with the large firms that develop sophisticated, proprietary analytics.

    If you want to open source the capital markets, there are many, many things you could do that are proactive and would lead to much greater transparency and stability.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      But that would ruin the whole purpose of CDS's!! Where would a CEO be able to rat hole liabilities to improve the balance sheet!
    • Adam Smith talked about markets with reverence because an open market is a truly free market. When the consumers are able to see the effect of their purchases, they make much better decisions.

      The problem with markets today is that they value opaqueness and secrecy above anything else. If a financial institution dared to let any of their investors see the mish mash of VBA slugged excel spreadsheets that are running their lives, they would probably lose half of their customer base overnight. If McDonalds, or

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by FiloEleven (602040)

        That's a very interesting observation. I think it's worth mentioning that "consumers" rarely fought for openness; we just want some end product and we want it cheap and immediately. Perhaps if we'd been less intellectually lazy it never would have gotten to this point.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jonaskoelker (922170)

      MBS/ABS/CMBS/CDO/CLO

      How many times do we have to go over this? It's GNU/MBS/ABS/CMBS/CDO/CLO...

      Wait, what were you talking about?

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:05AM (#30503950) Journal
    Lets break them up. The last thing that we need is have companies that are 'too big to fail'. We need more competition. If these companies that 'required' and accepted help, then we should break them up into at least 3 companies so that if any are ran into the ground again, we let them die.
  • by popo (107611) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:05AM (#30503952) Homepage

    As many accountants have said: Show me a company who does not get audited, and I will show you fraud.

    There are only two options here:

    Option1: We the People get ripped off.
    Option2: We the People are allowed to see exactly where OUR money went.

    All other options are Option 1 in disguise.

  • during this year's big UK politicians expenses scandal? All citizens could look over the lists of expenses and find the abuses. I'm not from the UK, so I don't know how this story ended, perhaps somebody from the UK could fill me in?
  • You mean, like the open source "investigation" of the leaked climate change research group emails? That turned out well...
  • Let's find out, in court, whether the shareholders or the government is sacred. This will be fun when the shareholders sue the government.
  • I'm not clear on what these guys are worried about. As far as I can tell, there was no expectation that this money was anything other than wasted, tossed down a giant rathole. So if we find, that say it got spent on a really amazing pool party or lost again in the same way that the original money had been squandered? Well that meets expectations.
  • It's a start (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mbone (558574) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:23AM (#30504042)

    I have no doubt that there is a lot of dirty stuff in those emails, so releasing them would be good.

    Since clearly not everything could be released (HIPPA stuff, personal bank account numbers, etc.), this raises the question of who would remove the private information, and whether they could be trusted. Clearly, if this was done by AIG, an amazing amount of stuff would presumably be declared personal and private and not for release.

    • by khallow (566160)

      I have no doubt that there is a lot of dirty stuff in those emails, so releasing them would be good.

      Why should anything be released? I wasn't aware that the money was given (not loaned) with any expectations in mind. Else we'd be able to bypass considerable Constitutional and judicial restrictions on law enforcement search and seizure by giving someone a token amount of public funds and then claiming the right to search based on the fact that they now receive public funds.

  • not only (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phrostie (121428) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:24AM (#30504048)

    not only is it a great idea, it should have been a requirement before the bailout.

  • After all the fanfare and comradery inspired by P.J. of Groklaw fame, we need to ask whether this is a good idea? It's an EXCELLENT idea. Many eyeballs make a heap of problems very shallow, to coin a phrase from Richard Stallman's work.

  • by steve buttgereit (644315) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @11:32AM (#30504086) Homepage

    While it is certainly easy to suggest something like this for those evil people at AIG, it presupposes that those good prosecutors and men at law that would protect us from such evil themselves are actually good. In truth the situation is much more grey than that. Firstly consider that many prosecutors in the country are elected and the prosecutorial policy is originates in the politics of the various office holders. Are politicians so indifferent to their own self interest that such a policy as being proposed by the article could be executed in good faith? Of course not. Politicians, and those that serve at them, are as notorious as any 'fat cat' in using their position and power to their own benefit at the expense of the others. All this policy does is feed a sort of populist anger that garners political support for those that suggest it and at the expense of real justice for the small minority that it targets... regardless of their past transgressions. One should remember that enshrining rights, such as prohibitions against search and seizure without convincing a court, exist largely to protect minorities from majority exploitation.

    The real sin in the AIG case, to be fair, was not any action of AIG at all. It was that we bought into the bogus notion that a firm can be 'too big too fail' and must be bailout out by Government. AIG made bad judgments and bad investments and its owners (shareholders, including big investment banks) allowed it to be managed poorly. The company should have been allowed to fail, something all those involved earned. What we did instead was reward the foolish risk taking made by the shareholders and the managers and, worse still, told future generations of shareholders and managers that taking these risks is OK... the government will bail you out if you lose so there really is no risk at all... you're too big too fail. Let em fail! Stop taking my savings, diluting my money, borrowing on my behalf to save businesses that by all rights have earned their failure (including all those that chose to have a business relationship). There are other insurance companies, there are other investment banks, and there are others capable of filling the gap responsibly. Sure none of them have such good friends as Geithner, Paulson, Obama, & Bush... but they can rise to the occassion.

  • ... and a "Taking" of private property.

    Those emails were made under certain expectations of privacy and confidentiality -- that they would be read by the recepients and authorized corporate officers/audit. To dump them to the public is a gross violation of those employees rights and shareholder rights -- the minority shareholders _do_ have rights.

    Look at what happens in criminal searches and civil discovery -- anything that does not make it into evidence (much is disputed and requires judge's rulings) re

  • Emails, that is. But please, no "frontier justice". The lawyers would miss their cut.
  • by Attila Dimedici (1036002) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @01:07PM (#30504838)
    Ordinarily, I would think this might be a good idea. However, Eliot Spitzer is among those calling for it. In the past there were several times where he called for "public accountability" of various corporations. Those seemed like good ideas too. They turned out to just be shakedowns and/or publicity opportunities to advance his political career, not attempts to serve the public interest. If an organization has Eliot Spitzer as a member, I will not believe that they are seeking something in the public interest. This is about serving the personal interests of the people calling for it, not about serving the public interest.
  • by gd23ka (324741) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @01:18PM (#30504926) Homepage

    And here's the way it'll happen:

    Support Ron Paul's bill http://www.auditthefed.com/ [auditthefed.com] and http://www.campaignforliberty.com/ [campaignforliberty.com]

    Why audit smalltime thieves when we could be coming after the GREATEST financial criminals this far into human history!!!

    They stole trillions from us and wont tell us what they did with the money.

  • by Lawrence_Bird (67278) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @01:46PM (#30505138) Homepage

    There are two time frames which require serious investigation. The first is the period Sept 10-Sept 17. What was said in these meetings? Who was there? It is not even entirely clear that AIG would have failed so spectacularly had they been allowed (as proposed by NYS) to tap into some of the excess liquidity of the subs. AIG, similar to Lehmans, was all about liquidity and the lack of access to short term lending facilities. The marks that the CDS portfolio was set to take that quarter were survivable. The cash crunch came from the securities lending side as well as some debatable collateral calls by the likes of Goldmans. The government then decided to effectively do eniment domain on AIG - taking it from its shareholders (80%, they would have done 100% if law permitted) and making it a conduit to funnel money into other institutions. There was never any serious consideration given to assisting AIG, either through relaxed regulation or temporary bridge financing (public or some mixture private/public) at rates similar to those given other institutions which were far, far less punative..

    Second, the time period when Treasury decided to force AIG to pay par on the CDS held by many of the counterparts, even though they were not entitled to par as most, if not all, the underlying CDOs had not yet entered default. Even so, CDS held by other institutions *never* paid at par, even when underlying bonds/structures had legitimately defaulted. It was not uncommon to only receive 65 or 70c on the dollar. Yet AIG was forced to make whole a slew of counterparts who at the least should have taken a sizable haircut if not been made to go to court to enforce their agreements if AIG had violated any of the terms.

    Instead, not only did the government via Paulson/Geitner/Bernanke pay off the likes of Goldmans and Deutche, they hosed the US tax payer as well as the shareholders of AIG. Some may object to the last but consider that all the above events, particularly those in early September, amounted to the pilfering of the AIG shareholders too. Yes, they may ultimately have lost everything but the way things went down was a sham.

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