*Financial system would have "buckled" under AIG collapse
*Collapse would have "wrought economic havoc"
(adds quotes, details, background)
WASHINGTON, Jan 26 Former U.S. Treasury
Secretary Henry Paulson staunchly defended the decision to
rescue troubled insurer American International Group Inc
(AIG.N) in 2008 and said he and others involved acted
In testimony prepared for a hearing on Wednesday of the
U.S. House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform
Committee, Paulson said he, Timothy Geithner who then was
president of the New York Federal Reserve bank, and Fed
Chairman Ben Bernanke acted properly because the situation was
"If AIG collapsed, it would have buckled our financial
system and wrought economic havoc on the lives of millions of
our citizens," said Paulson, who headed Treasury from 2006-2009
in the former Bush administration.
The hearing is to examine how AIG handled payments to banks
that were counterparties for credit default swaps that AIG had
issued and to examine why it paid 100 cents on the dollar to
settle them rather than getting a discount.
Questions also have been raised by Republican committee
members whether Geithner had any role in advising AIG on the
payments and on whether or not to fully divulge the amounts it
was paying to banks like Paulson's old firm, Goldman Sachs
"I was not involved in any of the decisions made with
respect to those payments, nor was I involved in any of the
decisions about AIG's public disclosure of those payments,"
Paulson said. He is set to release his book, "On the Brink,"
which is about the financial crisis on Feb 1.
He repeated that there was no effective way to wind down
AIG because there wasn't -- and still is not -- a resolution
authority that can deal with a failing far-flung financial
enterprise of AIG's scope.
"We had to intervene, and I am thankful that we did,"
More than $180 billion of taxpayers' funds eventually were
invested in bailing out AIG, which Paulson said was both "a
mismanaged and misguided enterprise."
He urged Congress to work on modernizing the regulatory
structure by creating a systemic risk regulator and a
resolution authority that could, if necessary, handle the
liquidation of a failing company like AIG and do so without
destabilizing the whole financial system.
(Reporting by Glenn Somerville; editing by Leslie Gevirtz)