State and federal insurance regulators came under fire on Capitol Hill on Thursday at a Senate hearing in which they were pressed to explain their roles in the liquidity crisis that led the American International Group to the brink of collapse.
Eric Dinallo, superintendent of the New York State Insurance Department, denied that his agency was the primary regulator of the insurance giant and insisted that he oversaw only a small portion of A.I.G.’s business — a handful of its insurance companies that are based in New York. The primary source of the crisis at A.I.G., he said, was its Financial Products division, which handled credit default swaps, derivatives and futures totaling an estimated $2.7 trillion.
“A.I.G. Financial Products is not a licensed insurance company,” he said. “It was not regulated by New York State or any other state. We were not responsible for the whole securities lending program,” Mr. Dinallo added.
Mr. Dinallo argued that A.I.G.’s securities lending unit had only minor losses and would have been successfully wound down had the insurance giant not suffered so many losses stemming from its credit default swap positions.
In testimony earlier this week, Federal Reserve chairman Bernanke harshly criticized the company, saying that A.I.G. acted like an unregulated hedge fund that exploited huge gaps in the regulatory system, making “irresponsible bets” and taking “huge losses.”
General Motors, which has borrowed $13.4 billion from the federal government and is seeking billions more, acknowledged in its annual report on Thursday that its survival was in “substantial doubt.”
GM warned last month that its auditors, Deloitte & Touche, could raise those concerns. “Our recurring losses from operations, stockholders’ deficit and inability to generate sufficient cash flow to meet our obligations and sustain our operations raise substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern,” the company said in the filing.
About one in every eight U.S. households, a record share, ended 2008 behind on their mortgage payments or in the foreclosure process as job losses intensified a housing crisis spawned by lax lending practices, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Thursday.
With unemployment at a 16-1/2-year high and rising, more borrowers will be late paying or fall into foreclosure this year, said the group's chief economist Jay Brinkmann.
While California, Florida, Nevada, Arizona and Michigan continue to dominate the delinquency numbers, some of the sharpest increases we saw last quarter in loans 90 days or more delinquent were in Louisiana, New York, Georgia, Texas and Mississippi, signs of the spreading impact of the recession, he said.