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post #1 of 2 (permalink) Old 03-12-2009, 01:36 PM Thread Starter
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AIG's claims over life insurer fragility irk sector

AIG : I am too big to fail !!!

AIG's claims over life insurer fragility irk sector
Thu Mar 12, 2009 3:29pm EDT

By Lilla Zuill - Analysis

NEW YORK (Reuters) - AIG's recent claims that its collapse could threaten not just banking counterparties but also decimate the broader U.S. life insurance industry are alarming but also largely unproven.

The contention was made in a presentation to U.S. regulators in late February on the eve of the third iteration of the U.S. government's rescue of American International Group Inc -- the globe insurer whose collapse has cost taxpayers up to $180 billion.

But while the report may have strengthened AIG's plea for the government to put another $30 billion at the insurer's disposal, it may have been based more on alarmist guesswork than a realistic risk scenario.

"Will AIG take down the industry? Categorically no, and to suggest that is irresponsible and inaccurate," said Citigroup analyst Colin Devine. "The (life insurance) industry is facing some tough times but that is regardless of what happens at AIG."

AIG, until recently the world's largest insurer, was rescued by the U.S. government last September as losses on toxic mortgage bets taken by a financial products unit nearly drove the holding company into bankruptcy.

At the time, the U.S. Treasury and Federal Reserve deemed it necessary to save AIG to protect millions of banks and others that had bought guarantees on debt from AIG Financial Products, fearing losses that would send shocks through already sick financial markets.

The U.S. government has continued to fund the insurer since, mindful of the turmoil created by Lehman Brothers' collapse two days before the initial AIG rescue.

AIG warned in the presentation to regulators that an AIG collapse could have a "cascading impact on a number of U.S. life insurers already weakened by credit losses."

To make matters worse, state insurance guarantee associations, set up about 40 years ago to ensure policyholder obligations are met, would "be quickly dissipated, leading to even greater runs on the insurance industry," AIG told officials, as it was seeking greater federal funding.

But AIG's troubles did not stem from any of its insurance units -- which operate in about 140 countries around the world -- and even a bankruptcy would not necessarily lead to the closures of any subsidiaries.

Joe Belth, professor emeritus of Indiana University and editor of Insurance Forum newsletter, said it was misleading for AIG to draw any parallels between troubles at the parent company and insurance businesses.

"I don't like to even think of AIG the holding company as an insurance company because that blurs an important distinction," he said. Belth said there were numerous examples of insurance holding companies collapsing while insurance units continued to operate, pointing to Conseco's (CNO.N) failure in 2002 as an example.

To be sure, the failure of a company of AIG's size would be unprecedented, and likely made much worse by the fact that its business included investment and financial products arms, raising the prospect of broader ramifications than in previous insurance company failures.

AIG, in the presentation, said its assessment of "potential consequences (from its own failure) are inherently judgmental and, to an extent, speculative."
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post #2 of 2 (permalink) Old 03-12-2009, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by mlfun View Post
AIG : I am too big to fail !!!
Do some research and find out how companies like State Farm and Allstate insure themselves against major calamity and how that risk is managed and spread.

Then ask that first question again.


Being smart is knowing the difference, in a sticky situation between a well delivered anecdote and a well delivered antidote - bear.
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