Feds, AIG talk bailout payback

September 29, 2010, 6:54 PM UTC

With the end of TARP in sight, the government is pushing to get more of its money back on its biggest bailouts.

The government and AIG are discussing plans that would convert the feds’ preferred shares in the troubled insurer to common stock that could then be sold off over time. The details are being worked out and could be ironed out as soon as Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Bernanke should be so lucky

A shift in the composition of the government’s AIG stake would follow the blueprint laid out in Citigroup’s resurrection. The government last year converted some of its Citi preferred shares to common and began selling them off at a measured pace.

Though Citi’s share price has held up through the sales process, the government looks unlikely to completely unwind its Citi common stake by year end. Running up against its self-imposed deadline could prompt Treasury either to extend the prearranged sale plan or to put a big chunk of Citi on the market at once.

That question aside, the government continues to sell off the assets it received in the Citi bailout. Treasury said Wednesday it will sell $2.2 billion of trust preferred securities it got in agreeing to backstop a portfolio of troubled Citi assets at the height of the financial crisis.

The backstop was never used, but its existence helped restore confidence that Citi would survive its many missteps in the years leading to the financial crisis. The government said the proceeds of the sale of the trust preferred securities will be pure profit for taxpayers.

The Troubled Asset Relief Program the government used to extend loans to Citi and other giant financial firms is due to expire Sunday, meaning no new credit will be extended after that date. But getting the taxpayers’ money back is likely to take years.

As for its remaining Citi common shares, Treasury said only that it “has been disposing of [them] separately.”