Archive for March, 2009

Are Banks Fleeing Accountability?

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

It may be a coincidence, but some banks are repaying the aid they received from the federal government just as some real accountability is finally being injected into the massive financial bailout that has been going on since last fall. The repayment moves so far involve relatively small regional banks, but there have been reports that Goldman Sachs, the recipient of a $10 billion federal capital infusion, is eager to buy out Uncle Sam’s holding.

The stricter accountability that the banks may be responding to is coming not from the Treasury Department but rather from the watchdog bodies that were created in the bailout legislation enacted last year—especially the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program. The SIGTARP himself, Neil Barofsky (photo), just offered some remarkable testimony to the Senate Finance Committee.

First of all, he provided a clear estimate of how much the federal government is potentially on the hook for in the dozen different bailout-related programs: up to $2.976 trillion, not counting the yet-to-be-determined cost of the capital that will be offered to banks after they are subjected to a stress test. (A breakdown of the costs can be found in the attachment at the back of his prepared testimony.)

Second, Barofsky reported that he demanded and received reports (still being analyzed) from every one of the 364 TARP recipients about how they are using federal funds and whether they are complying with restrictions on executive compensation.

Barofsky is also conducting special audits on external influences over the TARP application process, the various forms of assistance going to Bank of America, the controversial bonus payments at AIG and the payments AIG made to counterparties using federal bailout funds.

Whereas other federal officials have presented the TARP programs as impenetrable black boxes, Barofsky wants to shine a light on everything—even the initiatives that were designed before he took office and do not explicitly provide for SIGTARP oversight.

Barofsky emphasizes that his office is the only TARP watchdog that has criminal law enforcement powers, and he clearly intends to use them. He’s launched “more than a dozen criminal investigations” of possible bailout fraud and is working with the New York division of the High Intensity Finance Crime Area program, an initiative launched in the Treasury Department in 1999 to coordinate the prosecution of money laundering. Barofksy has even set up a whistleblower hotline (877-SIG-2009).

He is also working with the other TARP watchdogs, two of whom just testified with him in the Senate: Prof. Elizabeth Warren, head of the Congressional Oversight Panel, and Gene Dodaro, acting head of the Government Accountability Office.

Together, these entities are beginning to cut through the cloud of obfuscation that former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and, to an extent, his successor Timothy Geithner have built up around the bailouts. And some day in the not too distant future, some of the miscreants who caused the crisis and then abused the bailout may find themselves behind bars. That would be real accountability.

The Two Tim Geithners

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Will the real Timothy Geithner please stand up? In recent days it has seemed as if two men with the same name are serving as Secretary of the Treasury. On the one hand, we have the wimpy Tim Geithner, who let AIG get away with its bonus outrage and who has come up with a new scheme to get rid of toxic assets of banks that is a massive giveaway to hedge funds. On the other hand, this week has seen the lionhearted Tim Geithner, who is proposing what appears to be an audacious expansion of federal regulation of financial markets.

The wimpy version has been around for quite a while, characterizing the Geithner who headed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York for five years before he was chosen for Treasury. A look through the online archive of the New York Fed turns up the texts of numerous speeches in which Geithner acted as a cheerleader for the forms of financial “innovation” that paved the way to the current calamity of the world economy. Geithner was not oblivious to the escalation of risk that derivatives and the like were creating, but he expressed confidence that the system could accommodate it. At most, some tinkering with the regulatory structure might be necessary.

For example, in a May 2006 speech to the Bond Market Association, Geithner stated: “The efficiency, dynamism and resilience of the financial system are strategic assets for [the] U.S. economy.  The relatively favorable performance of the U.S. financial system is the result both of the wisdom of past choices made to foster a very open and competitive financial system, but also is the result of good fortune and some of the special advantages that have come from the unique role of the United States and the dollar in the world economy and financial system.”

Later in the same speech, he suggests that “we need to be creative in identifying areas where market-led initiatives, rather than new laws, regulations or formal supervisory guidance, are likely to be successful and possibly more efficient in achieving certain policy objectives.”

Compare this to the Tim Geithner who just told the House Financial Services Committee that “our system failed in basic fundamental ways…To address this will require comprehensive reform.  Not modest repairs at the margin, but new rules of the game.” These rules would: give the feds the power to seize failing non-bank entities, create a kind of super-regulator to oversee all large financial entities, impose stronger capital requirements, tighten hedge fund registration requirements, extend regulation to credit default swaps and over-the-counter derivatives, etc.

All these proposed measures are welcome and long overdue, but they may not go far enough. Perhaps what we have here is the wimpy Geithner only giving the appearance of being bold. The Treasury Secretary (and presumably the Administration) would have us believe that banks, insurance companies and other financial institutions can continue gambling with other people’s money as long as they put more of it aside in reserves, act in a somewhat more transparent manner and pay more attention to risk management.

If there were a truly intrepid Geithner, he would be talking about regulations that put an end to the most speculative financial transactions, rebuild a wall between commercial banking and investment banking, and dismantle huge financial institutions such as Citigroup. That Geithner has yet to appear on the scene.

Geithner’s Gaffes

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

The first thing that stands out in the financial rescue scheme just introduced by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is the curious choice of terminology. The plan is labeled a Public Private Partnership Investment Program (sometimes “partnership” is left out). Was any thought given to the fact that public private partnership (PPP or P3) is a common euphemism for the privatization or outsourcing of public services by state and local government? Does Geithner really want people to associate his plan with contracting boondoggles?

Then there’s his use of “legacy” to refer to what most people have come to call toxic assets. Yet “legacy” is also the term the auto industry uses when speaking of retiree health benefits and other structural labor costs. Geithner’s references to “legacy assets” and “legacy securities” are thus both a clumsy effort to sanitize common parlance and a potential insult to unionized workers.

Finally, the plan depends heavily on “non-recourse loans.” That same phrase is associated with agricultural subsidy programs—a form of spending that the Obama Administration is seeking to curtail.

The flaws in Geithner’s plan do not end with the branding gaffes. There’s also the awkward fact that the content is essentially the same as the original Troubled Asset Relief Program, with extraordinarily generous sweeteners added for private investors. In other words, Geithner is proposing an even bigger giveaway to private interests than was envisioned by Henry Paulson.

Paulson, of course, abandoned the idea of toxic asset auctions in favor of massive infusions of federal funds into banks large and small. He apparently did so in part because of concerns that it would be difficult for anyone to attach a value to those repugnant securities. There was also a built-in contradiction between the desire of vulture investors to buy at the lowest possible price and the need of banks to get paid something approaching the nominal value of the assets, so that their balance sheets did not collapse. Not to mention the conflict of interest stemming from the fact that the money managers Treasury wanted to handle the sale of the assets had their own holdings in the mortgage-backed securities market.

None of that has changed six months later. The only difference is that Geithner is willing to commit up to $100 billion of taxpayer money to allow investors to purchase the “legacy” assets in a way that puts very little of their own money at risk. The feds would both contribute directly to the purchase price and lend additional money to investors so they can buy more. These are the non-recourse loans, meaning that the purchaser does not have to repay them in full if the security plunges in value.

I get the impression this is the posture Geithner finds most appealing—giving cushy deals to major financial players. As his lame handling of the AIG bonus controversy and his unwillingness to terminate zombie banks such as Citigroup show, he is not inclined to really crack down on Big Money. So why is he handling one of the most important portfolios of an administration committed to change?

AIG and other Bailed-Out Companies Fight IRS on Taxes

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Rep. John Lewis has come out with the remarkable news that 13 corporate recipients of federal bailout money under the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) are federal tax deadbeats, together owing more than $220 million to Uncle Sam. The Georgia Democrat said he cannot reveal the names of the companies, thus setting off a tantalizing guessing game as to which TARP participants apparently lied on forms requiring all recipients to certify they were not significantly in arrears on their tax payments.

Assuming Lewis is talking about companies in disputes with the Internal Revenue Service, there are some likely suspects—beginning with the country’s favorite villain these days: American International Group. AIG has been battling with the IRS over the disallowance of foreign tax credits associated with cross-border financing transactions. In the notes to the financial statements in its 10-K annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission earlier this month, AIG says that it received a “notice of deficiency” from the IRS for the years 1997-1999 and acknowledged it is likely that the feds will go after the credits for subsequent years as well.

AIG paid the assessed taxes and penalties, but then it turned around and demanded its money back. Last month, AIG filed suit in federal court in Manhattan (SDNY Case 09-CV-1871) against the United States of America seeking the recovery of $306,102,672 that it claims was “erroneously and illegally assessed.” The fact that AIG paid the extra taxes while disputing them may not have qualified it for the list assembled by Rep. Lewis. Yet it is still quite remarkable that, after receiving a $170 billion bailout, AIG did not think there was anything wrong with hauling its rescuer into court to pursue a $300 million tax claim.

AIG is not an isolated instance. In its recent 10-K filing, Citigroup states it is “currently at IRS Appeals for the years 1999–2002. One of the issues relates to the timing of the inclusion of interchange fees received by the Company relating to credit card purchases by its cardholders. It is reasonably possible that within the next 12 months the Company can either reach agreement on this issue at Appeals or decide to litigate the issue.” Here’s another ward of the state that does not hesitate to sue its benefactor.

Then there’s Bank of America. Like AIG, it has been at odds with the IRS over foreign tax credits. According to its recent 10-K, B of A faces an “unagreed proposed adjustment” for the years 2000-2002, which sounds like it is at an impasse with the feds. The bank doesn’t mention litigation, but it does not waver from its position, insisting that “the Corporation continues to believe the crediting of these foreign taxes against U.S. income taxes was appropriate.” Receiving $45 billion in TARP funds does not seem to have affected its position.

JPMorgan Chase, the recipient of $25 billion in TARP capital infusions, discloses that it has administrative appeals pending with the IRS. The same goes for some banks in the second tier of bailout recipients. SunTrust Banks ($4.9 billion from TARP) reveals that it is sparring with the IRS over its tax returns for the period from 1997 to 2004. Its 10-K states that “the Company has paid the amounts assessed by the IRS in full for tax years 1997 and 1998 and has filed refund claims with the IRS related to the disputed issues for those two years.”

Capital One Financial ($3.5 billion from TARP) is still pursuing suits filed against the government in U.S. Tax Court in 2005 contesting tax assessments for the period 1995-1999. “At issue,” the company says in its 10-K, “are proposed adjustments by the IRS with respect to the timing of recognition of items of income and expense derived from the Company’s credit card business.”

Under normal circumstances, companies are within their rights to contest IRS assessments. But it is a different story when a company is being kept afloat by the generosity of the U.S. taxpayers. If it is now unacceptable for bailed-out companies to pay lavish employee bonuses, shouldn’t it also be taboo for them to pursue aggressive tax avoidance cases against the IRS? Shouldn’t there be a moratorium on such actions while a company continues to dine at the public trough? AIG, at least, should have the decency to drop its lawsuit and stop biting the hand that has fed it so much.

Protesting the Wrong AIG Giveaway

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Far be it from me to discourage the current populist outburst over the $165 million in employee bonuses paid out by American International Group, but I can’t avoid the feeling that this is drawing attention away from a much larger outrage.

The bonus controversy erupted just as AIG was forced to reveal the identities of the parties that were the biggest beneficiaries of the federal government’s massive bailout of the insurance company last fall. Billions of federal dollars flowed through AIG to make good on complex financial transactions with major banks. The institutions included ones that also received bailouts or capital infusions, including Goldman Sachs ($12.9 billion from AIG), Bank of America ($5.2 billion) and Citigroup ($2.3 billion). It also included foreign banks such as Société Générale ($11.9 billion), Deutsche Bank ($11.8 billion), Barclays ($8.5 billion), UBS ($5 billion) and BNP Paribas ($4.9 billion).

U.S. taxpayers were in effect preventing losses at firms that were also getting direct public financial assistance. The likes of Goldman Sachs, Bank of America and Citi were in effect double or triple dipping at the federal trough. By keeping the identity of the parties secret until now, AIG saw to it that these deals did not get considered when the bank bailouts were being debated. It also kept U.S. taxpayers in the dark on the extent to which the AIG rescue was actually a bailout of foreign banks.

More evidence of the coddling of financial institutions by AIG and the federal government came in a document quietly filed by AIG with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday. In it the insurance company gives details on the terms by which it resolved its credit-default swaps with major banks with the help of a financing entity called Maiden Lane III LLC, which was set up last fall by AIG and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (then run by the current Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner).

For example, the document shows how AIG and Maiden Lane helped Goldman Sachs recoup the full nominal value of nearly $14 billion on contracts whose market value had sunk to $8 billion. Merrill Lynch (now part of Bank of America) was made whole on $6 billion in contracts whose market value was only half that amount. A variety of foreign banks also enjoyed big recoupments.

Given the spectacular failure of AIG, the company’s bonus plan certainly deserves all the fulmination being directed at it by politicians of all stripes. But the few hundred million involved is inconsequential compared to the tens of billions in taxpayer money that went to AIG customers in sweatheart deals enabled by the Federal Reserve. Some of the effort now being exerted to recoup the bonuses should be put to work trying to claw back the much bigger misappropriation by the banking giants.

Who Will Determine the Future of Capitalism?

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Amid the worst financial and economic crisis in decades, the U.S. business press tends to get caught up in the daily fluctuations of the stock market and, to a lesser extent, the monthly changes in the unemployment rate. By contrast, London’s Financial Times is looking at the big picture. It recently launched a series of articles under the rubric of The Future of Capitalism. In addition to soliciting varying views on this monumental question, the paper published a feature this week presuming to name the 50 people around the world who will “frame the way forward.”

Kicking off the series, the FT’s Martin Wolf was blunt in asserting that the ideology of unfettered markets promoted over the past three decades must now be judged a failure. Sounding like a traditional Marxist, Wolf writes that “the era of liberalisation [the European term for market fundamentalism] contained seeds of its own downfall” in the form of tendencies such as “frenetic financial innovation” and “bubbles in asset prices.”

An article in the series by Gillian Tett casually notes that “naked greed, lax regulation, excessively loose monetary policy, fraudulent borrowing and managerial failure all played a role” in bringing about the crisis. Richard Layard of the London School of Economics weighs in with a piece arguing that “we should stop the worship of money and create a more humane society where the quality of human experience is the criterion.” Did editorial copy intended for New Left Review mistakenly end up in the FT computers?

Wolf finished his initial article with the statement: “Where we end up, after this financial tornado, is for us to seek to determine.” Yet who is the “we” Wolf is referring to?

Following the damning critique of markets and poor government oversight, the last ones we should turn to for leadership are the powers that be. Yet that is exactly the group that dominates the list of those who, according to the editors of FT, will lead the way forward. The 50 movers and shakers include 14 politicians, starting with President Obama and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao; ten central bankers; three financial regulators; and four heads of multinational institutions such as the IMF and the WTO. Also included are six economists, including Paul Krugman and Obama advisor Paul Volcker, and three prominent investors, among them George Soros and Warren Buffett.

The list also finds room for three chief executives (the heads of Nissan, PepsiCo and Google) and, amazingly, the chiefs of four major banks: Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, HSBC and BNP Paribas. It even includes two talking heads: Arianna Huffington and Rush Limbaugh.

Except for Olivier Besancenot of France’s New Anticapitalist Party, who is included among the politicians in a way that seems a bit condescending, there is not a single person on the list directly involved in a movement to challenge corporate power or even to significantly alter the relationship between business and the rest of society. There is not a single labor leader, prominent environmental advocate or other leading activist. The editors at FT seem never to have heard of civil society.

Then again, the problem may not be thickheadedness among FT editors. Perhaps the voices for radical change have simply not been loud enough to earn a place on a list of those who will play a significant role in the shaping capitalism’s future. In fact, one of the articles in the FT series suggests that in Europe neither the Left nor the labor movement has taken a leadership role in responding to the crisis, even as spontaneous protests have erupted in numerous countries.

In the United States, where those forces are weaker, anger at the crisis has to a great extent been channeled into support for the Keynesian policies of the Obama Administration. That’s unavoidable in the short term, but it doesn’t address the need for fundamental alteration of economic institutions. If, as the Financial Times suggests, the future of capitalism is up for grabs, let’s make sure we all join the fray.

Workplace Tyrants Talk “Democracy” to Undermine Worker Free Choice

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009

The halls of Congress are buzzing with talk of “workplace democracy.” This isn’t about syndicalism or co-determination. The slogan is being brazenly exploited by front groups for corporate interests fighting against a piece of federal legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), that would make it easier for U.S. workers to form unions free of management intimidation.

Major companies and their trade associations are sparing no expense in fighting EFCA, which was just introduced in the Senate by Tom Harkin of Iowa and in the House by George Miller of California . We thus have an abundance of bogus grassroots campaigns operating under names such as the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, the Employee Freedom Action Committee, the Workplace Fairness Institute and the Alliance for Worker Freedom.

They all foster the delusion that U.S. workplaces are currently a realm of full self-determination in which employees can robustly exercise their Constitutional rights. This Eden of autonomy is said to be threatened by EFCA, which, according to the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace, “is fundamentally incompatible with protecting the interests of individual liberty and the principles of a sound democracy.”

It is mind-boggling that these groups can get away with mouthing such slogans in furtherance of a movement whose leading proponents include Wal-Mart Stores, a company whose name is synonymous with labor abuses ranging from short-changing workers on overtime pay to mercilessly squashing any union organizing efforts. “We believe every associate or employee should have the right to make a private and informed decision regarding union representation,” a Wal-Mart spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal recently. And when that decision results in a vote favoring the union, the company promptly shuts down the offending workplace.

Given its reputation, Wal-Mart has nothing to lose in openly opposing EFCA. Most other large non-union companies have been more circumspect, letting the front groups and trade associations do the dirty work. Yet their fear and loathing of EFCA sometimes make it on the record. For example, Wal-Mart’s cooler competitor Target Corp., which is just as “union free,” is also riding the anti-EFCA bandwagon, according to a Minneapolis Star Tribune article that appeared in January. That same article cited two other Twin Cities-based firms, Best Buy and Hubbard Broadcasting, as EFCA opponents.

The latter company’s chief executive, Stanley S. Hubbard, is a long-time foe of unions who has kept collective bargaining out of nearly all his stations. Just this week, union members in the Twin Cities picketed (photo) the company’s flagship station KSTP to protest Hubbard’s effort to extract radical concessions—including the right to withdraw negotiated pay increases at any time—from NABET-CWA Local 21 at WNYT in Albany, New York. The workers at the station have been without a contract since last September.

Stanley Hubbard also has a history of mistreating his non-union employees. A May 1997 profile of him in the publication Corporate Report Minnesota (available via Nexis) stated: “Junior reporters and cameramen regularly told friends that they would have to leave KSTP just before their fifth anniversary because the Hubbards didn’t want them vested in the company pension plan.” The author of the article quotes Hubbard as mocking reporters who challenged his autocratic style: “Newspeople think, Oh, no one should tell me what to do.”

Such is the workplace “democracy” that corporate opponents of EFCA want to preserve.

Pump and Slump: Will Citi Sleep with the Fishes?

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

A couple of years ago, the mighty Citigroup traded at around $50 a share. Today, March 5, the price hovered around $1 and for a while was below a buck. In other words, one of the largest financial institutions in the world is in effect a penny stock. At one time, a descent to that level would have been enough to get a company delisted from the New York Stock Exchange, but standards have been relaxed.

Penny stocks have traditionally been associated with unscrupulous brokerage practices, such as the “pump and dump” scheme graphically illustrated during some episodes of The Sopranos (photo). A look back at the record of Citi during the past decade does not suggest a moral compass much different from the wise guys of Northern New Jersey. As U.S. PIRG Education Fund notes in its recent report Failed Bailout, Citi helped crooked companies such as Enron carry out deceptive transactions and itself set up scores of entities in offshore tax havens such as the Cayman Islands in order to avoid both taxes and oversight.

Citi’s actions had an impact beyond its own unjust enrichment. As Multinational Monitor editor Rob Weissman and his colleagues show in their new report Sold Out, Citigroup played a key role—thanks to $19 million in campaign contributions and $88 million in lobbying expenditures—in bringing about the demise of the Glass-Steagall Act and other deregulatory moves that paved the way for the current meltdown of the financial system.

Yet Citi’s management is, to a great extent, no longer in control of the company’s fate. Today it is the federal government that is in effect trying to pump up the bank and its stock. The Obama Administration, regrettably, is perpetuating the idea that Citi is too big to fail and thus requires a seemingly unlimited commitment of public resources.

Unfortunately for U.S. taxpayers, the pumping will not be followed by a timely dumping of the federal holdings in Citi at a fat profit. In fact, the federal capital infusions, loss-sharing agreements and loan guarantees are not stabilizing the company and pushing up its stock price. The more the feds put into the bank, the less the market seems to think it is worth. This downward move is attributed in significant part to short-selling of Citi’s common stock by hedge funds. At one time, those funds were apparently in cahoots with Citi. Last fall the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations charged that Citi was one of the banks that had helped offshore hedge funds engage in tax avoidance. I guess there really is no honor among thieves.

The U.S. government is now in the ridiculous position of having made commitments potentially costing hundreds of billions of dollars to a bank that the stock market, as of today, thinks is worth a total of only about $5 billion. As long as the Administration avoids the seemingly inevitable need to nationalize and reorganize Citi and the other large zombie banks, its strategy amounts to little more than “pump and slump.” Despite the efforts of the feds, the bank whose motto is “the Citi never sleeps” may soon be sleeping with the fishes.

Blurring the Bailouts

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

This is the time of year when most U.S. public companies file their 10-K annual reports with the Securities and Exchange Commission, which in turn makes them available to the public through its IDEA web page (formerly EDGAR). These reports include sections in which management discusses the firm’s performance over the past year and tries to put the best face on the financial results.

Many companies are, of course, reporting disappointing results this time around, but perhaps the most awkward filings are the ones being made by companies that had to get bailed out by the federal government to get through the year. Let’s take a look at how they are talking about being wards of the state.

We don’t yet know how General Motors is dealing with this challenge, since it notified the SEC that its 10-K will be late. So let’s focus on two of the other biggest supplicants: Citigroup and AIG. The first lesson, apparently, is not to use the term “bailout” when talking about being bailed out. The term appears nowhere in either firm’s 10-K.

Citi instead employs the bland statement that “the Company benefited from substantial U.S. government financial involvement.” Substantial, indeed. Citi matter-of-factly describes the capital infusions, loss-sharing agreements and loan guarantees through which the feds have made a commitment potentially costing several hundred billion dollars to keep the giant bank holding company afloat. With all the references to UST and USG, a casual reader might think Citi was referring to conventional investors rather than the U.S. Treasury and the U.S. Government.

AIG adopts a more narrative approach, writing that: “By early Tuesday afternoon on September 16, 2008, it was clear that AIG had no viable private sector solution to its liquidity issues. At this point, AIG received the terms of a secured lending agreement that the NY Fed was prepared to provide.” This does not quite capture the gravity of events that the New York Times, for example, reported on in a front-page story headlined: FED IN AN $85 BILLION RESCUE OF AN INSURER NEAR FAILURE; U.S. GETS CONTROL; POLICY REVERSAL ARISES FROM GROWING FEAR OF GLOBAL CRISIS.

Aside from downplaying the gravity of their bailouts, the Citi and AIG 10-Ks are less than lucid on what led up to their troubles. In describing conditions in 2008 that led to a $27 billion net loss, Citi takes no responsibility. The causes, instead, are said to have been “continued losses related to the disruption in the fixed income markets, higher consumer credit costs, and a deepening of the global economic slowdown.” Contrast this to its 10-K of two years ago, which stated: “We enter 2007 with good business momentum, as we expect to see our investment initiatives generate increasing revenues, and are well-positioned to gain from our balanced approach to growth and competitive advantages.” In other words, when things are going well, management strategy gets the credit; when the red ink begins to gush, impersonal market forces are to blame.

AIG, which reported an astounding $99 billion net loss for the year, also paints itself as a victim of conditions outside its control, saying “the 2008 business environment was one of the most difficult in recent decades.” The difference with Citi is that AIG’s management is blunter about the continuing dismal prospects for the company. The notes to its financial statements include a section entitled “Going Concern Considerations” that raises the possibility that the company may need yet more government assistance and that, even then, its survival is far from a sure thing.

Perhaps the most telling parts of the reports are the sections in which the companies have to disclose significant legal proceedings in which they are involved. It takes more than 7,000 words for AIG to summarize all of its legal problems, including about a dozen securities fraud class action cases. Citi engages in a similar recitation.

While the two companies are still in a state of denial about their responsibility both for their own circumstances and for the larger financial crisis (as illustrated in the image above from Citi’s website), the existence of these legal proceedings may see to it that they are eventually held accountable for their financial misdeeds.