There seems to be no end to the greed and insolence of AIG (NYSE:AIG). As the rescued megainsurer neared the end of its ward-of-the-state status last fall, CEO Robert Benmosche complained to an interviewer that the Feds never bothered to thank his company for repaying bailout funds. Then, just last week, the company's board decided against joining in a lawsuit brought by a major shareholder against the U.S. government alleging that the bailout terms were injurious to investors -- but not before the company's consideration of involvement prompted shrieks of outrage from Washington and Main Street.
Now, the company is suing Maiden Lane II , a creation of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, in order to purchase toxic mortgage-backed securities from AIG, thus taking them off of the insurer's books. The government claims that AIG gave up its right to sue the originators of those MBSes, such as Bank of America (NYSE:BAC), but AIG wants a judge to say it ain't so.
Suit targets B of A and others
AIG initiated lawsuits against Bank of America and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) in 2011, alleging fraud pursuant to the MBSes the insurer bought from the two banks. In the case of B of A, at least, the case claims that the FRBNY told the bank it had purchased litigation rights right along with the securities that were folded into Maiden Lane II. If true, this puts AIG's claim in jeopardy, and the lawsuit aims to reinstate AIG's right to sue.
It might sound like a no-brainer that a bailed-out company wouldn't be able to sue over securities it no longer owns, but bailout terms allowed it to retain rights to sue over mortgage bonds it bought directly from the originating banks. Whether the bonds in question are covered by the agreement remains to be seen, however.
One Fool's take
While AIG has every right to seek clarification on this issue, this latest action may be perceived not as trying to uphold the rights of the company's shareholders, but more of the greed and cheek that the insurer has been exhibiting lately. Keep in mind the lawsuit that caused such a rumpus last week was instigated by a former CEO whose own actions may very well have put AIG on the path to ruin, and not by a diverse group of righteously aggrieved investors. No doubt, it was the very idea that AIG might align itself with such a suit that sparked the outrage.
Are investors getting tired of all the drama at AIG? The stock was down somewhat at last Friday's close, which may indicate some annoyance, but time will tell. In the meantime, the rest of us are waiting to see if the next lawsuit entails AIG suing itself for being an embarrassment to its stockholders.