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Whenever a financial behemoth totters on the brink of bankruptcy,government officials start chanting the mantra, “It's too big to beallowed to fail.” Is that the case with American InternationalGroup, collapsing beneath the crushing weight of subprime mortgageloans gone bad? AIG's former top dog, Hank Greenberg, certainlythinks so. But the big question is, will anyone be held accountablefor getting AIG into this mess in the first place?

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As reported by our own Dave Postal, Mr. Greenberg made the case forhelping his old company keep from becoming the latest domino tofall in the subprime debacle while appearing on CNBC's SquawkBox.

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He made it clear that it is in the national interest that AIGsurvive, adding that even if Uncle Sam has to step in directly andoffer a bridge loan via the Federal Reserve, that's “not abailout.”

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Basically, Hank is arguing that while AIG has “a cash problem,”it is basically sound. He's not wrong in stating that AIG has aliquidity problem, not a solvency problem.

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He is also most likely correct that resolving the companystrades with counterparties if the firm filed for bankruptcy wouldtake years, and that forcing AIG into bankruptcy would in effectmean creating a systemic problem.

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There is no business like AIG, he said. It affects everything wecan do in the world. It would be a loss to America. He added thatthe carrier he led to dominance over a period of decades is “anational treasure,” warning that “letting AIG go down would be atragic mistake.”

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One way or the other, I think AIG will get its life preserver.It will either get private financing or a federal bridge loan, orboth, to keep the company afloat.

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However, I would not go so far as to second Mr. Greenberg'smotion to set a moratorium on rating agency downgrades for 90 days,so as to buy AIG time to do a rights offering and sell off someassets–but a bridge loan might make the point moot in any case.

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Again, however, while everyone frantically scrambles to keep AIGfrom sinking into oblivion, I can't help but wonder whether therebe any accountability for the risky investments that put thecarrier into its precarious position. Somehow, I doubt it.

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The Republican Party likes to call this an “ownership society,”and insist that everyone must take responsibility for their ownretirement and healthcare financing. But somehow that credo goesout the window when a major company like AIG gets into trouble,mainly because the firm's collapse would hurt the economy sodeeply, and ultimately hurt all those average people who depend onWall Street and Main Street to keep them from personal poverty.

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But letting tens of millions of people go without healthinsurance, or pushing for privatization of Social Security, or theend of defined benefit pension plans also has a consequence. Itadds up to a very shaky economic foundation for individuals andcorporations alike.

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As Ricky always used to say to Lucy, AIG has a lot of explainingto do. That's the price you pay when you have to plead for yourcorporate life.

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Stay tuned to this latest episode in the corporate version of“Survivor”!

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