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The Facts on AIG

Deputy Communications Director Jen Psaki explains the recent back-and-forth over AIG.

Some people just don’t like movies with happy endings. How else to explain this week’s report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP)? Rather than focusing on the growing evidence we’ve seen in recent months that TARP will be far less costly than anyone expected, SIGTARP instead sought to generate a false controversy over AIG to try and grab a few, cheap headlines.

Last month, the Administration released a new report showing that – after giving effect to a proposed restructuring and based on current market prices – Treasury’s overall investment in AIG is expected to break even or turn a profit.  This valuation reflects AIG’s recently announced exit strategy to pay back taxpayers, including the conversion of Treasury’s illiquid preferred stock stake in that company to 1.7 billion shares of publicly traded common stock.

Unlike the preferred stock we currently hold, AIG’s common stock has a readily identifiable value on the New York Stock Exchange. Under federal accounting rules, we are required to value that common stock at the current market price. And based on current market prices, the sale of that AIG common stock would provide a substantial profit for taxpayers.

The math isn’t that complicated. It’s simple multiplication. Our calculations on AIG are straightforward, and we have published our methodology for all of the American people to see. 

SIGTARP, however, incorrectly claims that our report is inconsistent with TARP’s audited financial results from March 2010. And in doing so, SIGTARP seems to be arguing that when Treasury conducts any evaluation of the cost of its investment in AIG, it should pretend that the company’s exit strategy was never announced.

SIGTARP’s analysis seems to be stuck in a time warp if they believe that we should ignore AIG’s exit strategy in evaluating our investment in that company. Moreover, they demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the difference between audited financial results – which are backward looking and represent a snapshot in time – and forward-looking valuations of future profits, such as Treasury’s recent report.

Additionally, invaluing our expected common stock holdings in AIG, Treasury employed the exact same methodology we use for valuing the common stock we own in other publicly traded companies. And we made it clear that the valuation was based on giving effect to the restructuring and subject to certain conditions, which AIG is moving to fulfill. The fact that AIG will raise at least $18 billion in its offering of AIA – announced in the last few days – brings us one big step closer to completing the restructuring and ensuring that taxpayers are paid back.

All of this financial talk can get complicated, but here’s the bottom line: Any truly independent observer would say that Treasury’s stake in AIG will be worth more than taxpayers originally invested in that company. Of course, as with any investment, prices could rise or fall in the future. That’s the nature of any financial transaction. But Treasury is confident that we are in a much stronger position today to recoup our investment in AIG than two years ago – or even a few short months ago. And that’s very good news for taxpayers.

Jen Psaki is Deputy Communications Director