The Wall Street Journal has an investigative piece outlining how Goldman Sachs Fueled AIG Gambles. It appears Goldman Sachs acted as a middleman for even more CDSes from other banks.
Goldman originated or bought protection from AIG on about $33 billion of the $80 billion of U.S. mortgage assets that AIG insured during the housing boom. That is roughly twice as much as Société Générale and Merrill Lynch, the banks with the biggest exposure to AIG after Goldman.
In Goldman's biggest deal, it acted as a middleman between AIG and banks, taking on the risk of as much as $14 billion of mortgage-related investments. Then Goldman insured that risk with one trading partner—AIG, according to the Journal's analysis and people familiar with the trades.
The trades yielded Goldman less than $50 million in profits, which were mostly booked from 2004 to 2006, according to a person familiar with the matter. But they piled risks onto AIG's books, which later came to haunt the insurer and Goldman. The trades also gave Goldman a unique window into AIG's exposure to losses on securities linked to mortgages.
When the federal government bailed out the insurer, Goldman avoided losses on its trades with AIG covering a total of $22 billion in assets.
For details on the 100% AIG payout, on the U.S. taxpayer dime, read The Real Screw Job.
The banks wanted protection in case the housing market tanked. Many turned to Goldman, which effectively insured the securities against losses. Then, to cover its own potential losses, Goldman bought protection from AIG, in the form of credit-default swaps.
Goldman charged more than AIG for the protection, so it was able to pocket the difference, making millions while moving the default risks to AIG, according to people familiar with the trades.
Yet today, we still cannot get real regulation on derivatives.
This is almost like a a circle jerk game of hot potato, each charging fees along the way to dump the thing before they get burned.
Goldman's other big role in the CDO business that few of its competitors appreciated at the time was as an originator of CDOs that other banks invested in and that ended up being insured by AIG
The Journal analysis of that document in conjunction with ratings-firm reports shows that Goldman underwrote roughly $23 billion of the $80 billion in mortgage-linked CDOs that AIG agreed to insure.
Please read the original article. In spite of a few graphics, it seems we need more illustrations to explain this bizarre derivatives game created that brought the global finance world to it's knees.