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Cleaning up the mess that remains

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At least the Obama administration isn’t saying “Mission Accomplished.”

In marking the anniversary of Lehman Brothers’ demise, the administration understandably focused on how far we’ve come since, and on the various exit strategies in the works.

Lehman Brothers has been at the center of the narrative of what went wrong last year, and that makes it much easier for the administration to tell a story of triumph rather than the more uncomfortable legacy of dysfunctional companies and hidden toxic assets.

Coinciding with President Barack Obama’s speech in New York, the Treasury released a paper today, titled “The Next Phase of Government Financial Stabilization and Rehabilitation Policies.”

Securitization survives the fall

A year after the government’s seizure of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG , not to mention the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers that sent the global financial system into a tailspin, very little has changed to prevent debt from being sliced and diced, again and again.

This is a mistake. Although there were many factors contributing to the downfall of the global financial system, the repackaging of toxic debt into esoteric financial products was at the heart of the credit crisis when it erupted in 2007.

The capital games that banks play

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Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s call for the global banks to set aside bigger capital cushions to better absorb losses on souring securities and ailing loans is a good idea. But that alone won’t be enough to prevent another crisis.

Regulators must also clamp down on the kind of AIG-engineered deals that legally enabled German, French, Dutch, Danish and other European banks to dodge existing capital rules and free up some $400 billion on their balance sheets.

Defoliating JC Flowers

William Cohan has a great takedown of J. Christopher Flowers and his struggling private equity firm in Fortune.

The story sheds light on how Flowers lost a good deal of money for his investors over the past few years and how this has tarnished the reputation he earned years ago at Goldman Sachs.

Time to get tough with AIG

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It’s time for someone in the Obama administration to read the riot act to Robert Benmosche, American International Group’s new $7 million chief executive.

Since getting the job, Benmosche has spent more time at his lavish Croatian villa on the Adriatic coast than at the troubled insurer’s corporate offices in New York.

AIG lunacy

American International Group is a $50 stock. Yeah. Sure. But that’s what the market says it is today so it must be.

Shares of AIG are soaring today in part because the insurer’s new CEO Robert  Benmosche tells a Reuters reporter that he doesn’t intend to conduct a firesale of the company’s divisions. He also says he’s been seeking guidance from former AIG CEO Hank Greenberg–the former Wall Street titan who just doesn’t know when to go away.

The big Fed news

A federal judge’s ruling that the mighty Federal Reserve must release information about some $2 trillion in “emergency” loans made during the financial crisis is a big blow to the central bank’s self-styled image as an impenetrable shrine.

US District Judge Loretta Preska should be applauded for not taking the Fed’s bait that to release information about the banks and financial institutions that received those loans would imperil the financial system. Preska rightfully concludes that the Fed’s fear is based on mere speculation and “conjecture.”

Don’t be fooled by global stock stumble

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Don’t blame global stock markets for being skittish. It is August, after all, a month that has spelled trouble in the past two years.

Recall that, a year ago, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac started wobbling at the precipice while AIG, desperate for cash, began paying junk-like yields in the corporate bond market. A month later, all hell broke loose.

Go away Hank

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s settlement with Hank Greenberg over allegations that he permitted the use of accounting tricks to manipulate earnings at American International Group comes way too late.

Oh sure, it’s great the SEC managed to squeeze $15 million out of Greenberg before agreeing to settle the more then four-year-old civil investigation. But if the SEC really had the goods on Greenberg, it should have gone after him years ago–settlement or not.

Who pays on Goldman’s CIT hedges

Goldman Sachs keeps saying it has no exposure is CIT Group were to go bust, even though it has a $3 billion line of credit to the ailing mid-market lender.

David Viniar, the investment bank’s CFO, reitereated that mantra today during a conference call with analysts, saying Goldman has sufficient collateral and hedges to render any losses on CIT immaterial. Of course, that’s what Goldman said about its exposure to American International Group, even after taking $13 billion from the Fed to retire some CDOs that AIG had written credit defaults swap on.

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