AIG Auditors 1, Traders 0 - Round 1

February 11 was a bit of an equity rollercoaster. Reports of another big price gap were to blame. According to Reuters, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, external auditors for AIG, "concluded that the company had a material weakness in its internal control over financial reporting relating to the fair valuation of credit default swap portfolio obligations of AIG Financial Products Corp." Those in the know estimate the unrealized valuation loss relating to credit default swaps as being close to $5 billion, much bigger than originally believed. The stock closed down 12 percent lower. (Click to read "AIG discloses hole in derivatives valuation" by Lilla Zuill.)

Several questions come to mind, not the least of which is whether internal auditors came to the same conclusion at the same time and by the same route. How did the outside auditors decide on the adjustment? What models did they use? (AIG's Form 8-K, filed with the SEC as of February 11, 2008, mentions the Binomial Expansion Technique and Monte Carlo Simulation.) How often did auditors and traders kick the proverbial tires? On the business development front, how will this news impact organizations on the other side of AIG trades? Will they ask for more collateral? Will trade size fall to reflect a reappraisal of default risk?

To be sure, AIG is not the only name in the headlines. Irrespective of any particular company, and as we've mentioned many times before, pension funds are duly exposed when they transact derivatives, buy financial company stock or bonds or allocate money to multi-purpose behemoths. Now is not the time to be shy about asking tough questions as regards risk management and valuation policies and procedures of firms such as AIG. This holds true even when a consultant is engaged. Legal experts remind. Fiduciary oversight remains.

Awhile ago, this blogger authored "Asset Valuation: Not a Trivial Pursuit" for the Institute of Internal Auditors. Topics discussed include model risk, model validation and the internal auditor's role. Also check out "The Role of the Financial Expert in Valuation of Derivative Instruments." Yes Virginia, there is lots of litigation as a result of markdowns, disclosure questions and risk management process (or lack thereof). 

On March 5, 2008 (in case you missed our earlier announcement), Pension Governance, LLC is proud to sponsor a webinar entitled "Fiduciary Risk, Trading Controls and External Asset Manager Selection." Persons who attend this 75-minute webinar will learn the following:

  • What Constitutes "Must Have" Elements of Effective Risk Management Systems
  • Ways to Detect Deviation from Management Style and/or Excess Position Concentration
  • Red Flags Regarding Possible Rogue Trading
  • Industry Best Practices for Trading Controls and Lessons Learned About What to Avoid.

We hope to have you join us!

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