And apparently phony, to boot! I don't know about you, but I'm feeling even better about writing AIG that blank check. Joe Cassano was the head of AIG's financial products division who insured all those bad CDOs - you know, the ones that helped trigger this global meltdown?
The Feds are closing in on a criminal fraud case against Joseph Cassano, reports ABC News, which tracked down the former AIG Financial Products czar wearing blue spandex and a sheepish expression outside his home in London. And before you wonder why a Brooklyn College educated swaps dealer with a name like Joe Cassano lives in London again, the answer is probably "taxes" -- and decimating taxes, it may not shock you to know, is fast emerging as the cornerstone of the AIG business model.
An ABC News investigation found that Cassano set up some dozens of separate companies, some off-shore, to handle the transactions, effectively keeping them off the books of AIG and out of sight of regulators in the U.S. and the United Kingdom.
"This is the other very important issue underneath the AIG scandal," said [tax law expert Jack] Blum. "All of these contracts were moved offshore for the express purpose of getting out from under regulation and tax evasion."
And as breathtaking as the sum of taxpayer dollars AIG has managed to put down in its post-crisis nationalized afterlife, the zombie insurer might possibly have indirectly scammed the government out of more money back in its Triple-A days. Today the Wall Street Journal explores AIG's euphemistically-named "tax structuring" business in a story about an IRS battle with Hewlett-Packard over an offshore entity -- or what the IRS terms a "sham that lacked economic substance and a business purpose" -- that AIG set up for the company to collect $132 million in tax credits. AIG's tax business, is "even bigger than the credit-default swaps business that led to the company's meltdown," a person "familiar with the business" tells the Journal.
But that might be compartmentalizing things: we are beginning to suspect the credit default swap business and the tax "structuring" business were the same thing -- not just because they served the same end.
An attorney and tax shelter expert we spoke with today says AIG FP was one of the biggest players in the business of engineering offshore tax shelters for corporate and private clients that resembled a multibillion dollar tax evasion scheme called Son of Boss (we don't have time to figure out why) that thousands of corporations and wealthy individuals used to book phony capital gains losses and evade most or all of their income taxes in the late nineties and early 00s. The mind-numbing litany of esoteric loopholes such tax shelters employ to concoct said phony losses is something you don't want to hear about at this hour -- trust us -- but they are generally anchored by a set of exotic unregulated derivative securities whose 'notional value' can help fabricate losses that don't actually exist. Which is where Cassano came in -- only, obviously, the losses existed.