From the Wall Street Journal:
U.S. to Take Over AIG in $85 Billion Bailout; Central Banks Inject Cash as Credit Dries Up
Emergency Loan Effectively Gives Government Control of Insurer; Historic Move Would Cap 10 Days That Reshaped U.S. Finance
By MATTHEW KARNITSCHNIG, DEBORAH SOLOMON, LIAM PLEVEN and JON E. HILSENRATH
The U.S. government seized control of American International Group Inc. — one of the world’s biggest insurers — in an $85 billion deal that signaled the intensity of its concerns about the danger a collapse could pose to the financial system.
The step marks a dramatic turnabout for the federal government, which had been strongly resisting overtures from AIG for an emergency loan or some intervention that would prevent the insurer from falling into bankruptcy. Just last weekend, the government essentially pulled the plug on Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., allowing the big investment bank to go under instead of giving it financial support. This time, the government decided AIG truly was too big to fail.
The U.S. negotiators drove a hard bargain. Under terms hammered out Tuesday night, the Fed will lend up to $85 billion to AIG, and the U.S. government will effectively get a 79.9% equity stake in the insurer in the form of warrants called equity participation notes. The two-year loan will carry an interest rate of Libor plus 8.5 percentage points. (Libor, the London interbank offered rate, is a common short-term lending benchmark.)
The loan is secured by AIG’s assets, including its profitable insurance businesses, giving the Fed some protection even if markets continue to sink. And if AIG rebounds, taxpayers could reap a big profit through the government’s equity stake.
“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 Fed said in a statement.
It puts the government in control of a private insurer — a historic development, particularly considering that AIG isn’t directly regulated by the federal government. The Fed took the highly unusual step using legal authority granted in the Federal Reserve Act, which allows it to lend to nonbanks under “unusual and exigent” circumstances, something it invoked when Bear Stearns Cos. was rescued in March.