AIG was even sleazier than you thought

By Felix Salmon
March 4, 2010
a racist one, too. From the complaint:

" data-share-img="" data-share="twitter,facebook,linkedin,reddit,google" data-share-count="true">

I knew that AIG was technically a thrift, but I thought that was just a piece of nimble-footed regulatory arbitrage in an attempt to get itself regulated by the pointless Office of Thrift Supervision. It turns out, however, that AIG was actually a pretty substantial mortgage lender, through its AIG Federal Savings Bank and Wilmington Finance subsidiaries. And a racist one, too. From the complaint:

From July 2003 to May 2006 black borrowers nationwide were charged total broker fees 20 basis points higher! as a percentage of the loan amount, on average, than the total broker fees charged to white borrowers for WFI and AlG FSB’s loans. These disparities extended to at least the following 19 metropolitan areas in which AlG FSB and WFI made a substantial number of brokered-loans-to black-and white-borrowers: Atlanta, Baltimore, Birmingham, Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Hartford, Kansas City, Las Vegas, Memphis, Nassau County, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland OR, St. Louis, and Tampa. In these MSAs black borrowers paid total broker fees ranging from 25 to 75 basis points higher, on average, than the total broker fees paid by white borrowers. All of these disparities are statistically significant.

AIG has now settled the case, paying a minimum of $6.1 million in fines. But there’s no hint of the case in its newsroom as yet.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

AIG’s transgressions notwithstanding, AAG Perez swung fast and loose with this doozy: “Discriminatory practices by lenders, brokers, and other players in the mortgage market contributed to our nation’s housing crisis and economic meltdown.”

Actually, it was the lack of discrimination between those truly able to afford mortgages and those that couldn’t that contributed to said disaster. Talk about scoring cheap political points, not to mention sounding like a blithering idiot in the process.

Posted by Mega | Report as abusive

We need to let AIG die like we need to let Fannie/Freddie die. They offer no value to society at this point. All the good businesses are being sold and the company is losing significant market share each month. We can’t put any more money into this sink hole. The economy needs federal money a whole lot more than useless AIG does. I work for where the mess that lands on our doorstep is crazy bad. We have the most read home foreclosure and job hunting stories on the web. Check out our new Rant forum

Posted by jerk91 | Report as abusive

I have no love for AIG, but this is sloppy. That they settled says nothing about the merit of the case, only that they (understandably) wish to avoid further bad publicity.

What was the average loan amount to black borrowers vs. white borrowers? Was it less and therefore the fee % higher? Did black borrowers have access to – or utilize – a smaller or less competitive selection of lenders when they chose AIG? What were the circumstances of these loans? I find it difficult to believe that a large and therefore highly-visible corporation would engage in a policy of blatant racial discrimination. I also find it hard to believe that we wouldn’t be hearing about this from various interest groups if there were any evidence to stand on.

Allegations such as this demand responsibility – even if you are picking on the town drunk.

Posted by Costard | Report as abusive

These are the kind of “people” that were bailed out. The statistics show it. This is a snapshot of our corporate “citizens”. These are the same kind of “people” who think the citizenry don’t deserve health care. These are the kinds of people who think that when times are good they should keep all the gains and when times are bad we should all take all the loss.

This is what they think. This is how they treat us. And yet it is to US that they turn with an open hand when they themselves are in need. It’s like we’ve become indulgent parents to rotten children. They do not deserve a voice in congress. Revoke their citizen status. Make these organizations SUBJECT to the law, not shapers of it.

Posted by Benny_Acosta | Report as abusive

Yes, AIG should not be in existence right now. BUT, playing the race card….really? And 20 basis points….you mean a .2%-.75% difference…thats right, .002 difference or at worst .0075, is that even statistically significant? Some of us (and just some of us) realize that race, and income are correlated, even more so in urban areas.

Posted by charlesv | Report as abusive

I don’t think AIG should be in existence, but 25-75 basis points is not statistically significant, and race has nothing to do with it.

Posted by charlesv | Report as abusive


I’m not taking a position on the merits, but curious about your argument on the stats. Obviously, you clicked through to check the raw numbers in the complaint, right? Would you mind posting the means and standard deviations for the white and black groups in say 2 or 3 of the cities, and the t-statistic for the differences between them? Just so other readers here can double-check your math, you understand.

Posted by Jon_Jacobs | Report as abusive

If black borrowers were charged 20 basis points higher for their non credit-worthy mortgages, then such predatory lending simply diminished their ability even further to maintain loan repayments.

Such predatory mechanisms are conventional tactics of the banksters (to which I amalgamate AIG).

When GS got rid of all/most of its CDOs it was doing the precisely the same manipulation. It was part and parcel to the innovation of CDOs (that packaged and resold the Toxic Waste with fraudulent Triple-A ratings), the majority of which it offloaded just before the bubble exploded in the latter part of 2008. I’ll bet it knew full well that the CDOs were Toxic Waste. And they passed it on to gullible investors globally.

Was that crafty financial maneuvering? Or just crassly immoral banking practices? I opt the latter.

Posted by deLafayette | Report as abusive

All of the financial institutions are just going to rip off the public no matter what kind of legislation or so called laws are initiated.
Let me think, oh I am so proud to be an american.

Posted by Anna123 | Report as abusive

Alleged civil rights violations are only one part of this. AIG is a still-unfolding train wreck.

AIG deserves a name in the economics text books: not only a failure, but one of capitalism’s larger deformities.

Corporations that exploit the American population are unpatriotic.

In future years, tourists on buses will be driven by AIG to hiss and jeer.

Left Blog

Posted by reverse_cloud | Report as abusive

If you’ve had a job for a long time, than you meet the minimum criteria that will get you the money that you need fast.