Remember how incredulous those CNBC Wall Street denizens were when I suggested a few weeks back that insurers' investment losses, particularly in the subprime mortgage mess, would hit the Dow? Well, wonder what those anchors are saying now about that "big charge" I made. The New York Times reports on its home page this afternoon that AIG's disclosures about its mortgage porfolio are driving the market crash.
...the moment it began trying to raise capital, A.I.G. had to open its
books to potential investors who were likely to take a sharp pencil to
the company’s portfolio values, analysts said. And with Lehman Brothers
last week providing investors with a valuation for the same types of
assets held by A.I.G., subprime and Alt-A mortgage securities, the
investment bank’s marks can now be applied to the big insurer’s books.
The question now is how much policyholders will have to pay for insurers' bad investment bets. That battle is just beginning at every state department of insurance around the nation.
Another question is how the issue will play in the presidential race. Which candidate, do you think, is a bigger darling of the insurance industry? We might be hearing a little bit about that in the coming days if the white house contenders move from the spin cycle to the economic cycle that is roiling not just Wall Street, but Main Street. Hint: Senator McCain carried the insurers' preferential plan for a national "no fault" auto insurance program, which has been widely discredited across the nation.