Saturday, March 12, 2011

WikiLeaks: As AIG crumbled, China stepped in as broker

(Reuters) - U.S. officials believe China's insurance regulator passed on proprietary information about AIG to its Chinese rivals during the American firm's collapse in 2008, according to unpublished diplomatic cables.

The U.S. government bailout of American International Group Inc in 2008 sent shock waves around the world, and China seemed especially rattled.

The Chinese Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) forced AIG's local operations to open their books on a daily basis after the company's September 2008 rescue, according to a series of U.S. diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks and provided to Reuters by a third party. The regulator then shared the confidential information with local competitors, in part to convince at least one of them to buy the troubled assets.

The cables were based on diplomats' repeated conversations with unidentified AIG executives.

While the regulator's efforts went for naught -- AIG's various Asian operations were ultimately sold in part to MetLife and in part to the public in the IPO of AIA Group -- the cables shed new light on the way the Chinese approach large and troubled foreign companies.

"CIRC appears to be mixing its role as a regulator of China-based insurance companies with intentions to support domestic Chinese insurers," the U.S. consulate in Shanghai wrote in an October 22, 2008 cable.

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