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Quick Hits: AIG Burns Through Most of $123 Billion Handout


Brief scrutiny of today's headlines.

Quick! Nail the cookie jar shut.

American International Group (AIG) has burned through about 75% of a $123 billion federal bailout loan a little more than a month after Uncle Sam rescued the company from bankruptcy.

AIG has tapped the Federal Reserve's credit line for $90.3 billion, most of it to pay off bad decisions made in backing other firms' mortgage investments. A week ago, the amount totaled about $83 billion and about $68 billion two weeks ago.

On Wednesday, the company said the federal money may not be enough to keep it afloat.

This plays out against lavish spending by AIG officials on fancy resorts in Southern California and hunting trips to England. Finally, the New York attorney general stepped in to provide some adult supervision.

Last spring, AIG reported multimillion-dollar losses from mortgages gone sour. The US Treasury decided that the company's failure probably would bring down several other investment firms and banks that worked closely with AIG.

It looks like up or out for AIG: The company will either emerge stronger from its current travails - or it will fail, despite the bailout money.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York handed AIG an $85 billion loan September 16th to help it avoid bankruptcy. Earlier this month, the Federal Reserve extended $38 billion more in credit to keep the company from burning through the loan too quickly.

AIG plans to sell assets in an effort to repay the government loan, but prices have fallen and prospective buyers are having trouble lining up financing in the credit crunch, the Washington Post reports.

On Wednesday, Edward M. Liddy, AIG's chief executive officer, told The News Hour with Jim Lehrer that he hoped the government's loan would carry the company through its current troubles. But Liddy said there's no guarantee, unless capital markets rebound and companies can again raise money to complete deals.

There's no sign of the capital markets coming unstuck, so AIG could slide into oblivion - a slide which could have unforeseen consequences.

But there's probably enough money left in the kitty for AIG's bigwigs to take one more splendiferous trip on the public's dime.
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