Economic Outlook: AIG and Darwin

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  Sept. 12, 2012 at 9:11 AM
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The Troubled Asset Relief Program is an orphaned success in the U.S. economic recovery.

The Treasury Department Tuesday sold 553.8 million shares of American International Group Inc. for $32.50 per share, and demand was so vigorous, underwriters put out a second large handful of shares, completing the day with a sale of 636.9 million shares that took in $20.7 billion and dropped the taxpayer's ownership of AIG from 53.4 percent to 15.9 percent.

U.S. taxpayers have now made $15.1 billion on the AIG rescue that originally cost $182.3 billion, but nobody wants to claim the program for their own. Republicans put TARP together in the first place and passed it into law in a hurry during the height of the financial meltdown.

TARP, it turns out, was President George W. Bush's swan song.

The program then landed in the lap of current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who was put in the position of arguing the merits of the behemoth that would have been lambasted as an example of bloated government intrusion had Democrats come up with it.

Curiously enough, TARP and the heroics it took to save AIG had no connection to the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul that included a mandate for the top financial watchdogs in the country -- the Federal Reserve, the Treasury, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and a few others -- to get together to watch for potential failures among companies deemed too big to fail.

So unpopular was TARP that the promise now is for regulators, when and where it is needed in the future, to dismantle companies like AIG should they get to the point that they threaten the financial system as a whole.

AIG, of course, had to sell several large divisions to return to its core business as an insurance company.

Sometimes evolution accomplishes what regulators find unavoidable: survival of the fittest, but with a little help once in a while.

In international markets the Nikkei 225 index in Japan gained 1.73 percent while the Shanghai composite index in China added 0.28 percent. The Hang Seng index in Hong Kong rose 1.1 percent while the Sensex in India climbed 0.82 percent.

The S&P/ASX 200 in Australia gained 0.82 percent.

In midday trading in Europe, the FTSE 100 index in Britain was flat, falling less than 0.01 percent, while the DAX 30 in Germany rose 0.61 percent. The CAC 40 in France added 0.39 percent while the Stoxx Europe 600 gained 0.18 percent.

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