In two separate cases, the government now stands accused of overstepping its authority when it took extraordinary measures to prevent a financial meltdown in the fall of 2008. The Wall Street figures who are suing say their property was seized without compensation, in violation of the Constitution. One case was brought by Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, the legendary former chief executive of AIG who built it into the world’s largest insurer. Filing the other case is a group of hedge funds that bought Fannie and Freddie stock for pennies per share after the companies were put in government conservatorship.
Federal district court judges in Washington and New York initially dismissed both challenges. Their opinions noted, somewhat pointedly, that the Wall Street plaintiffs were not only unharmed but actually came out better off as a result of the government rescues. Yet both groups have now found a more sympathetic hearing a stone’s throw from the front gate of the White House, at a little-known brick courthouse called the U.S. Court of Claims.