The True Story of the ‘Greatest Corporate Failure in American History’

At the time we were told that it was the “greatest corporate failure in American history”—hat tip to Senator Richard Shelby—because politicians needed to cover up for the actual perpetrators of the crisis. They had us believe that AIG’s “rogue” financial products unit was the assassin of the economy, because they were conveniently placed and relatively unsympathetic bit players who happened to be completely removed from the more sinister machinations of the subprime racketeers. And in stark contrast to the narratives promulgated by former Treasury secretaries Tim Geithner and Henry Paulson and by appointed media mouthpieces like Andrew Ross Sorkin—whose crisis chronicle Too Big To Fail portrays the AIG bailout as the thoughtless design of a group of bankers Geithner summoned to the New York Federal Reserve Bank and exhorted to “Work harder, get smarter!”—the truth is that it was all very deliberate and intentional. Because, as the Fed and Treasury lawyers were acknowledging among themselves at the time, the AIG “bailout” appears to be by far the most illegal thing they did.

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