Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP)

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The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) is a program of the United States government to purchase assets and equity from financial institutions in order to strengthen its financial sector. It is the largest component of the government's measures in 2008 to address the subprime mortgage crisis.



TARP allows the United States Department of the Treasury to purchase or insure up to $700 billion of "troubled" assets. "Troubled assets" are defined as "(A) residential or commercial mortgages and any securities, obligations, or other instruments that are based on or related to such mortgages, that in each case was originated or issued on or before March 14, 2008, the purchase of which the Secretary determines promotes financial market stability; and (B) any other financial instrument that the Secretary, after consultation with the Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, determines the purchase of which is necessary to promote financial market stability, but only upon transmittal of such determination, in writing, to the appropriate committees of Congress." [1]

In short, this allows the Treasury to purchase illiquid, difficult-to-value assets from banks and other financial institutions. The targeted assets can be collateralized debt obligations, which were sold in a booming market until 2007 when they were hit by widespread foreclosures on the underlying loans. TARP is intended to improve the liquidity of these assets by purchasing them using secondary market mechanisms, thus allowing participating institutions to stabilize their balance sheets and avoid further losses.

TARP does not allow banks to recoup losses already incurred on troubled assets, but officials hope that once trading of these assets resumes, their prices will stabilize and ultimately increase in value, resulting in gains to both participating banks and the Treasury itself. The concept of future gains from troubled assets comes from opinion in the financial industry that these assets are oversold, as only a small percentage of all mortgages are in default, while the relative fall in prices represents losses from a much higher default rate.

The Act requires financial institutions selling assets to TARP to issue equity warrants (a type of security that entitles its holder to purchase shares in the company issuing the security for a specific price), or equity or senior debt securities (for non-publicly listed companies) to the Treasury. In the case of warrants, the Treasury will only receive warrants for non-voting shares, or will agree not to vote the stock. This measure is designed to protect taxpayers by giving the Treasury the possibility of profiting through its new ownership stakes in these institutions. Ideally, if the financial institutions benefit from government assistance and recover their former strength, the government will also be able to profit from their recovery.[2]

Another important goal of TARP is to encourage banks to resume lending again at levels seen before the crisis, both to each other and to consumers and businesses. If TARP can stabilize bank capital ratios, it should theoretically allow them to increase lending instead of hoarding cash to cushion against future, unforeseen losses from troubled assets. Increased lending equates to 'loosening' of credit, which the government hopes will restore order to the financial markets and improve investor confidence in financial institutions and the markets. As banks gain increased lending confidence, the interbank lending interest rates (the rates at which the banks lend to each other on a short term basis) should decrease, further facilitating lending.[2]

The TARP will operate as a “revolving purchase facility.” The Treasury will have a set spending limit, $250 billion at the start of the program, with which it will purchase the assets and then either sell them or hold the assets and collect the 'coupons'. The money received from sales and coupons will go back into the pool, facilitating the purchase of more assets. The initial $250 billion can be increased to $350 billion upon the President’s certification to Congress that such an increase is necessary.[3] The remaining $350 billion may be released to the Treasury upon a written report to Congress from the Treasury with details of its plan for the money. Congress then has 15 days to vote to disapprove the increase before the money will be automatically released.[2]. The first $350 billion was released on October 3, 2008, and Congress voted to approve the release of the second $350 billion on January 15, 2009. One way that TARP money is being spent is to support the "Making Homes Affordable" plan, which was implemented on March 4, 2009, using TARP money by the Department of Treasury. Because "at risk" mortgages are defined as "troubled assets" under TARP, the Treasury has the power to implement the plan. Generally, it provides refinancing for mortgages held by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac. Privately held mortgages will be eligible for other incentives, including a favorable loan modification for five years.[4]

The authority of the United States Department of the Treasury to establish and manage TARP under a newly created Office of Financial Stability became law October 3, 2008, the result of an initial proposal that ultimately was passed by Congress as H.R. 1424, enacting the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and several other acts.[5][6]

Timeline of changes to the initial program

On October 14, 2008, Secretary of the Treasury Paulson and President Bush separately announced revisions in the TARP program. The Treasury announced their intention to buy senior preferred stock and warrants in the nine largest American banks. The shares would qualify as Tier 1 capital and were non-voting shares. In order to qualify for this program, the Treasury required participating institutions to meet certain criteria, including: "(1) ensuring that incentive compensation for senior executives does not encourage unnecessary and excessive risks that threaten the value of the financial institution; (2) required clawback of any bonus or incentive compensation paid to a senior executive based on statements of earnings, gains or other criteria that are later proven to be materially inaccurate; (3) prohibition on the financial institution from making any golden parachute payment to a senior executive based on the Internal Revenue Code provision; and (4) agreement not to deduct for tax purposes executive compensation in excess of $500,000 for each senior executive."[7] The Treasury also bought preferred stock and warrants from hundreds of smaller banks, using the first $250 billion dollars allotted to the program.[8]

The first allocation of the TARP money was primarily used to buy preferred stock, which is similar to debt in that it gets paid before common equity shareholders. This has led some economists to argue that the plan may be ineffective in inducing banks to lend efficiently. [9][10]

In the original plan presented by Secretary Paulson, the government would buy troubled (toxic) assets in insolvent banks and then sell them at auction to private investor and/or companies. This plan was scratched when Paulson met with England's Prime Minister Gordon Brown who came to the White House for an international summit on the global credit crisis.Template:Fact Prime Minister Brown, in an attempt to mitigate the credit squeeze in England, merely infused capital into banks via preferred stock in order to clean up their balance sheets and, in some economists' view, effectively nationalizing many banks. This plan seemed attractive to Secretary Paulson in that it was relatively easier and seemingly boosted lending more quickly. The first half of the asset purchases may not be effective in getting banks to lend again because they were reluctant to risk lending as before with low lending standards. To make matters worse, overnight lending to other banks came to a relative hault because banks did not trust each other to be prudent with their money.Template:Fact

On November 12, 2008, Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson indicated that reviving the securitization market for consumer credit would be a new priority in the second allotment.[11][12]

On December 19, 2008, President Bush used his executive authority to declare that TARP funds may be spent on any program he personally deems necessary to avert the financial crisis, and declared Section 102 to be nonbinding. This has allowed President Bush to extend the use of TARP funds to support the auto industry, a move supported by the United Auto Workers.

On January 15, 2009, the Treasury issued interim final rules for reporting and record keeping requirements under the executive compensation standards of the CPP.[13]

On January 21, 2009, the Treasury announced new regulations regarding disclosure and mitigation of conflicts of interest in its TARP contracting. [14]

On February 5, 2009, the Senate approved changes to the TARP which prohibit firms receiving TARP funds from paying bonuses to their 25 highest-paid employees. The amendment was proposed by Christopher Dodd of Connecticut as an amendment to the $900 billion economic stimulus act yet to be passed. [15]

On February 10, 2009, the newly confirmed Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner outlined his plan to use the $300 billion or so dollars remaining in the TARP funds. He intended to use $50 billion for foreclosure mitigation and use the rest to help fund private investors to buy toxic assets from banks. Nevertheless, this highly anticipated speech coincided with a nearly 5 percent drop in the S&P 500 and was criticized for being short on details.[16] On March 23, 2009, U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner announced a Public-Private Investment Program (P-PIP) to buy toxic assets from banks' balance sheets. The major stock market indexes in the United States rallied on the day of the announcement rising by over six percent with the shares of bank stocks leading the way. [17] P-PIP has two primary programs. The Legacy Loans Program will attempt to buy residential loans from bank's balance sheets. The FDIC will provide non-recourse loan guarantees for up to 85 percent of the purchase price of legacy loans. Private sector asset managers and the U.S. Treasury will provide the remaining assets. The second program is called the legacy securities program which will buy mortgage backed securities (RMBS) that were originally rated AAA and commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS) and asset-backed securities (ABS) which are rated AAA. The funds will come in many instances in equal parts from the U.S. Treasury's Troubled Asset Relief Program monies, private investors, and from loans from the Federal Reserve's Term Asset Lending Facility (TALF). The initial size of the Public Private Investment Partnership is projected to be $500 billion.[18] Economist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman has been very critical of this program arguing the non-recourse loans lead to a hidden subsidy that will be split by asset managers, banks' shareholders and creditors. [19] Banking analyst Meridith Whitney argues that banks will not sell bad assets at fair market values because they are reluctant to take asset write downs.[20] Removing toxic assets would also reduce the volatility of banks' stock prices. Because stock is a call option on a firm's assets, this lost volatility will hurt the stock price of distressed banks. Therefore, such banks will only sell toxic assets at above market prices. [21]

On April 19, the Obama administration outlined the conversion of Banks Bailouts to Equity Share.[22]

Administrative structure

Template:Seealso The program is run by the Treasury's new Office of Financial Stability. According to a speech made by Neel Kashkari,[23] the fund will be split into the following administrative units:

  1. Mortgage-backed securities purchase program: This team is identifying which troubled assets to purchase, from whom to buy them and which purchase mechanism will best meet our policy objectives. Here, we are designing the detailed auction protocols and will work with vendors to implement the program.
  2. Whole loan purchase program: Regional banks are particularly clogged with whole residential mortgage loans. This team is working with bank regulators to identify which types of loans to purchase first, how to value them, and which purchase mechanism will best meet our policy objectives.
  3. Insurance program: We are establishing a program to insure troubled assets. We have several innovative ideas on how to structure this program, including how to insure mortgage-backed securities as well as whole loans. At the same time, we recognize that there are likely other good ideas out there that we could benefit from. Accordingly, on Friday we submitted to the Federal Register a public Request for Comment to solicit the best ideas on structuring options. We are requiring responses within fourteen days so we can consider them quickly, and begin designing the program.
  4. Equity purchase program: We are designing a standardized program to purchase equity in a broad array of financial institutions. As with the other programs, the equity purchase program will be voluntary and designed with attractive terms to encourage participation from healthy institutions. It will also encourage firms to raise new private capital to complement public capital.
  5. Homeownership preservation: When we purchase mortgages and mortgage-backed securities, we will look for every opportunity possible to help homeowners. This goal is consistent with other programs - such as HOPE NOW - aimed at working with borrowers, counselors and servicers to keep people in their homes. In this case, we are working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to maximize these opportunities to help as many homeowners as possible, while also protecting taxpayers.
  6. Executive compensation: The law sets out important requirements regarding executive compensation for firms that participate in the TARP. This team is working hard to define the requirements for financial institutions to participate in three possible scenarios: One, an auction purchase of troubled assets; two, a broad equity or direct purchase program; and three, a case of an intervention to prevent the impending failure of a systemically significant institution.
  7. Compliance: The law establishes important oversight and compliance structures, including establishing an Oversight Board, on-site participation of the General Accounting Office and the creation of a Special Inspector General, with thorough reporting requirements. We welcome this oversight and have a team focused on making sure we get it right.
Eric Thorson is the Inspector General of the US Department of the Treasury and currently is responsible for the oversight of the TARP but has expressed concerns about the difficulty of properly overseeing the complex program in addition to his regular responsibilities. Thorson called oversight of TARP a "mess" and later clarified this to say "The word 'mess' was a description of the difficulty my office would have in providing the proper level of oversight of the TARP while handling its growing workload, including conducting audits of certain failed banks and thrifts at the same time that efforts are underway to nominate a special inspector general." [1] As of November 2008, Neil Barofsky has been nominated as the Special Treasury Department Inspector General with the express role of overseeing the TARP. Barofsky is undergoing senate confirmation hearings from the Senate Finance Committee. The Treasury has retained the law firms of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey and Hughes, Hubbard & Reed to assist in the administration of the program.[24] Accounting and internal controls support services have been contracted from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst and Young under the Federal Supply Schedule.[25]

Participation criteria

The Act’s criteria for participation are very unclear. It states that “financial institutions” will be included in TARP if they are “established and regulated” under the laws of the United States and if they have “significant operations” in the United States. The Treasury will need to define what institutions will be included under the term “financial institution” and what will constitute “significant operations.”[2]Companies that sell their bad assets to the government must provide warrants so that taxpayers will benefit from future growth of the companies.[3] Certain institutions seem to be guaranteed participation. These include: U.S. banks, U.S. branches of a foreign bank, U.S. savings banks or credit unions, U.S. broker-dealers, U.S. insurance companies, U.S. mutual funds or other U.S. registered investment companies, tax-qualified U.S. employee retirement plans, and bank holding companies.[2]

The President is to submit a law to cover taxpayer losses on the fund, using "a small, broad-based fee on all financial institutions."[3] In order to participate in the bailout program, "companies will lose certain tax benefits and, in some cases, must limit executive pay. In addition, the bill limits 'golden parachutes' and requires that unearned bonuses be returned."[3] The fund has an Oversight Board so that the U.S. Treasury cannot act in an arbitrary manner. There is also an inspector general to protect against waste, fraud and abuse.[3]

CAMELS ratings (US supervisory ratings used to classify the nation’s 8,500 banks) are being used by the United States government in response to the global financial crisis of 2008 to help it decide which banks to provide special help for and which to not as part of its capitalization program authorized by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008. It is being used to classify the nation’s 8,500 banks into five categories, where a ranking of 1 means they are most likely to be helped and a 5 most likely to not be helped. Regulators are applying a short list of criteria based on a secret ratings system they use to gauge this.[26]

The New York Times states: "The criteria being used to choose who gets money appears to be setting the stage for consolidation in the industry by favoring those most likely to survive" because the criteria appears to favor the financially best off banks and banks too big to let fail. Some lawmakers are upset that the capitalization program will end up culling banks in their districts.[26] However, the Wall Street Journal suggested that some lawmakers are actively using TARP to funnel money to weak regional banks in their districts. [27]

Known aspects of the capitalization program "suggest that the government may be loosely defining what constitutes healthy institutions. [... Banks] that have been profitable over the last year are the most likely to receive capital. Banks that have lost money over the last year, however, must pass additional tests. [...] They are also asking if a bank has enough capital and reserves to withstand severe losses to its construction loan portfolio, nonperforming loans and other troubled assets."[26] Some banks received capital with the understanding the banks would try to find a merger partner. To receive capital under the program banks are also "required to provide a specific business plan for the next two or three years and explain how they plan to deploy the capital."[26]

Whether hedge funds, as virtually unregulated institutions, will be included depends on the discretion of the Treasury, but it seems unlikely. Hedge funds (partnerships in which experienced investors pool their money to make complex, and often risky, investments using advanced investment strategies) have recently become politically unpopular in the U.S. as a result of their perceived role in creating the crisis. This perception of hedge funds makes it difficult for the Treasury to allow them to participate in a taxpayer-funded bailout program.[2]

Eligible assets and asset valuation

TARP allows the Treasury to purchase both “troubled assets” and any other asset the purchase of which the Treasury determines is “necessary” in order to further economic stability. Troubled assets include real estate and mortgage-related assets and securities based on those assets. This includes both the mortgages themselves and the various financial instruments created by pooling groups of mortgages into one security to be bought on the market. This category probably includes foreclosed properties as well.[2]

Real estate and mortgage-related assets (and securities based on those kinds of assets) are eligible if they originated (that is, were created) or were issued on or before March 14, 2008, the date of the Bear Stearns bailout.[2]

One of the most difficult issues facing the Treasury in managing TARP is the pricing of the troubled assets. The Treasury must find a way to price extremely complex and sometimes unwieldy instruments for which a market does not exist. In addition, the pricing must strike a balance between efficiently using public funds provided by the taxpayer and providing adequate assistance to the financial institutions that need it.[2]

The Act encourages the Treasury to design a program using market mechanisms to the extent possible. This has led to the expectation that the Treasury will use a “reverse auction” mechanism to price assets. A reverse auction means that bidders (that is, the potential sellers of the troubled assets) will place bids with the Treasury for the right to sell a specified type of assets. The sale price will be the lowest price at which the bid will provide the required quantity of the item. Theoretically, the system creates a market price because the bidders will want to sell at the highest price they can get, but they also want to be able to make a sale, so they must set a low enough price to be competitive. The Treasury is required to publish its methods for pricing, purchasing, and valuing troubled assets no later than two days after the purchase of their first asset.[2]

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) uses procedures similar to those specified in the Federal Credit Reform Act (FCRA) to value assets purchased under the TARP.[28]

In a report dated February 6, 2009, the Congressional Oversight Panel concluded that the Treasury paid substantially more for the assets it purchased under the TARP than their then-current market value. The COP found the Treasury paid $254 billion, for which it received assets worth approximately $176 billion, for a shortfall of $78 billion. The COP's valuation analysis assumed that “securities similar to those issued under the TARP were trading in the capital markets at fair values” and employed multiple approaches in order to cross-check and validate the results. The value was estimated for each security as of the time immediately following the announcement by Treasury of its purchase. For example, the COP found that the Treasury bought $25 billion of assets from Citigroup on 10/14/08, however, the actual value was estimated to be $15.5, creating a 38% (or $9.5 billion) subsidy. [29]

Protection of taxpayer investment

  1. Equity stakes
    1. The Act requires financial institutions selling assets to TARP to issue equity warrants (a type of security that entitles its holder to purchase shares in the company issuing the security for a specific price), or equity or senior debt securities (for non-publicly listed companies) to the Treasury. In the case of warrants, the Treasury will only receive warrants for non-voting shares, or will agree not to vote the stock. This measure is designed to protect taxpayers by giving the Treasury the possibility of profiting through its new ownership stakes in these institutions. Ideally, if the financial institutions benefit from government assistance and recover their former strength, the government will also be able to profit from their recovery.[2]
  2. Limits on executive compensation
    1. The Act sets some new limits on the compensation of the five highest-paid executives at companies that elect to participate significantly in TARP. The Act treats companies that participate through the auction process differently from those that participate through direct sale (that is, without a bidding process).
      1. Companies who sell more than $300 million in assets through an auction process are prohibited from signing new “golden parachute” contracts (employment contracts that provide for large payments upon termination) with any future executives. It will also place a $500,000 limit on annual tax deductions for payment of each executive, as well as a deduction limit on severance benefits for any golden parachutes already in place.[2]
      2. Companies in which the Treasury acquires equity because of direct purchases must meet tougher standards to be established by the Treasury. These standards will require the companies to eliminate compensation structures that encourage “unnecessary and excessive” risk-taking by executives, provide for claw-back (forced repayment of bonuses in the event of a post-payment determination that the bonuses were paid on the basis of false data) of bonuses already paid to senior executives based on financial statements later proven to be inaccurate, and prohibit payment of previously established golden parachutes.[2]
  3. Recoupment
    1. This provision was a big factor in the eventual passage of the EESA. It gives the taxpayer the opportunity to “be repaid.” The recoupment provision requires the Director of the Office of Management and Budget to submit a report on TARP’s financial status to Congress five years after its enactment. If TARP has not been able to recoup its outlays through the sale of the assets, the Act requires the President to submit a plan to Congress to recoup the losses from the financial industry. Theoretically, this prevents TARP from adding to the national debt. The use of the term “financial industry” in the provision leaves open the possibility that such a plan would involve the entire financial sector rather than only those institutions that availed themselves of TARP.[2]
  4. Disclosure and Transparency
    1. Though the Treasury will ultimately determine the type and extent of disclosure required for participation in the TARP, it is clear that these requirements will be extensive, particularly with respect to any asset acquired by TARP. It seems certain that institutions who participate in TARP will have to publicly disclose information pertaining to their participation, including the amount of assets they sold to TARP, what type of assets were sold, and at what price. More extensive disclosure may be required at the discretion of the Treasury.[2]
    2. The Act also seems to give a broad mandate to the Treasury to determine, for each “type” of institution that sells assets to TARP, whether the current disclosure and transparency requirements on the sources of the institution’s exposure (such as off-balance sheet transactions, derivative instruments, and contingent liabilities) are adequate. If the Treasury finds that a particular institution has not provided sufficient disclosures, it has the power to make recommendations for new disclosure requirements to the institution’s regulators, which will probably include foreign-government regulators for those foreign financial institutions that have “significant operations” in the United States.[2]
  5. Judicial Review of Treasury Actions
    1. The Act provides for judicial review of the actions taken by the Treasury under the EESA. In other words, the Treasury may be taken to court for actions it took pursuant to the Act. Specifically, Treasury actions may be held unlawful if they involve an abuse of discretion, or are found to be “arbitrary, capricious . . . or not in accordance with law.” However, a financial institution that sells assets to TARP is not allowed to challenge the Treasury’s actions with respect to its specific participation in TARP.[2]

Expenditures and commitments

As of February 9, 2009, $388 billion had been allotted, and $296 billion spent, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Among the money committed, includes:[30]

  • $250 billion to purchase bank equity shares through the Capital Purchase Program ($195 billion spent);
  • $40 billion to purchase preferred shares of American International Group (AIG, Fortune 500) through the program for Systemically Significant Failing Institutions ($40 billion spent);
  • $20 billion to back any losses that the Federal Reserve Bank of New York might incur under the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility (none spent);
  • $40 billion in stock purchases of Citigroup and Bank of America ($20 billion each) through the Targeted Investment Program ($40 billion spent)
  • $12.5 billion in loan guarantees for Citigroup ($5 billion) and Bank of America ($7.5 billion) through the Asset Guarantee Program (none spent);
  • $25 billion in loans to automakers and their financing arms through the Automotive Industry Financing Program ($21 billion spent)

The Congressional Budget Office released a report in January 2009 reviewing the transactions enacted through the TARP. The CBO found that through December 31, 2008, transactions under the TARP totaled $247 billion. According to the CBO's report, the Treasury had purchased $178 billion in shares of preferred stock and warrants from 214 U.S. financial institutions through its Capital Purchase Program (CPP). This included the purchase of $40 billion of preferred stock in AIG, $25 billion of preferred stock in Citigroup, and $15 billion of preferred stock in Bank of America. The Treasury also agreed to lend $18.4 billion to General Motors and Chrysler. The Treasury, along with the FDIC and the Federal Reserve, has also agreed to guarantee a $306 billion portfolio of assets owned by Citigroup.[31]

The CBO also estimated the subsidy cost for transactions under TARP. The subsidy cost is defined as, broadly speaking, the difference between what the Treasury paid for the investments or lent to the firms and the market value of those transactions, where the assets in question were valued using procedures similar to those specified in the Federal Credit Reform Act (FCRA), but adjusting for market risk as specified in the EESA. [32] The CBO estimated that the subsidy cost of the $247 billion in transactions before December 31, 2008 amounts to $64 billion. An updated analysis from the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimates a budgetary impact of $80 billion for all TARP spending as of 02/3/09.[30]


The banks agreeing to receive preferred stock investments from the Treasury include Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. (including Merrill Lynch), Citigroup Inc., Wells Fargo & Co., Bank of New York Mellon and State Street Corp.[33][34][35] The Bank of New York Mellon is to serve as master custodian overseeing the fund.[36]

As of 2009, the U.S. Treasury has not yet released an official list of TARP recipients (though it periodically announces recipients in batches). News organizations ProPublica and the New York Times have kept lists of the recipients based on Treasury and individual institution announcements. Beneficiaries of TARP include:[37]

Company Preferred Stock purchased (millions USD) Assets guaranteed (millions USD) Additional details
Citigroup $50,000 $306,000 Two allocations: $25,000 on October 28, 2008
Bank of America $45,000 $118,000 Two allocations: $25,000 on October 28, 2008 and $20,000 in Jan 2009
AIG (American International Group) $40,000
JPMorgan Chase $25,000 October 28, 2008
Wells Fargo $25,000 October 28, 2008
General Motors $13,400
Goldman Sachs $10,000 October 28, 2008
Morgan Stanley $10,000
PNC Financial Services Group $7,579
U.S. Bancorp $6,600
GMAC Financial Services $5,000
Chrysler $4,000
Capital One Financial $3,555
Regions Financial Corporation $3,500
American Express $3,389
Bank of New York Mellon Corp $2,000 to $3,000
State Street Corporation $2,000 to $3,000
Discover Financial $1,230[38]

City Fund - Cities also asked Paulson to set up a $50 billion fund to rebuild infrastructure. The fund would consist of $25 billion in grant money for cities that are unwilling or unable to take on debt, and another $25 billion for loans to cities at an interest rate of 50 basis points above that of 30-year Treasury bonds.[39][40]

Similar historical federal banking programs

The nearest parallel action the federal government has taken was in investments made by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC) in the 1930s. The RFC, an agency chartered during the Herbert Hoover administration in 1932, made loans to distressed banks and bought stock in 6,000 banks, totalling $1.3 billion. In 2008 dollars, that would amount to $200 billion. When the economy had stabilized, the government sold its bank stock to private investors or the banks, and is estimated to have received approximately the same amount previously invested.[41]

In 1984, the government took an 80% stake in the nation’s then seventh-largest bank Continental Illinois Bank and Trust. Continental Illinois made loans to oil drillers and service companies in Oklahoma and Texas. The government was estimated to have lost $1 billion because of bad loans purchased as part of Continental Illinois, which ultimately became part of Bank of America.[41]


Template:See also

The effects of the TARP have been widely debated. A review of investor presentations and conference calls by executives of some two dozen US-based banks by the New York Times found that "few [banks] cited lending as a priority. An overwhelming majority saw the program as a no-strings-attached windfall that could be used to pay down debt, acquire other businesses or invest for the future."[42] The article cited several bank chairmen as stating that they had no intention of changing their lending practices to "accommodate the needs of the public sector" and that they viewed the money as available for strategic acquisitions in the future.

Moreover, while TARP funds have been provided to bank holding companies, those holding companies have only used a fraction of such funds to recapitalize their bank subsidiaries.[43]

The Congressional Oversight Panel created to oversee the TARP concluded on January 9, 2009: "In particular, the Panel sees no evidence that the U.S. Treasury has used TARP funds to support the housing market by avoiding preventable foreclosures". The panel also concluded that "Although half the money has not yet been received by the banks, hundreds of billions of dollars have been injected into the marketplace with no demonstrable effects on lending."[44]

Government officials overseeing the bailout have acknowledged difficulties in tracking the money and in measuring the bailout's effectiveness.[45]

On February 5, 2009, Elizabeth Warren, chairperson of the Congressional Oversight Panel, told the Senate Banking Committee that during 2008, the federal government paid $254 billion for assets that were worth only $176 billion.[46]

During 2008, the companies that received bailout money had spent $114 million on lobbying and campaign contributions. These companies received $295 billion in bailout money. Sheila Krumholz, executive director of The Center for Responsive Politics, said of this information, "Even in the best economic times, you won't find an investment with a greater payoff than what these companies have been getting."[47]

Banks that received bailout money had paid their top executives nearly $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits in 2007. Benefits included cash bonuses, stock options, personal use of company jets and chauffeurs, home security, country club memberships, and professional money management.[48] Obama's administration has promised to set a $500,000 cap on executive pay at companies that receive bailout money,[49] but the proposal would also allow banks to give unlimited amounts of stock to these same executives.[50] Graef Crystal, a former compensation consultant and author of "The Crystal Report on Executive Compensation," claimed that the limits on executive pay were "a joke" and that "they’re just allowing companies to defer compensation."[51]

ABA's attempts to expunge the TARP warrants

By March 31, 2009 four banks out of over five hundred had returned their preferred stock obligations. None of the publicly traded banks had yet bought back their warrants owned by the U.S. Treasury by March 31, 2009. [52] According to the terms of the U.S. Treasury's investment, the banks returning funds can either negotiate to buy back the warrants at fair market value, or the U.S. Treasury can sell the warrants to third party investors as soon as feasible. Warrants are call options that add to the number of shares of stock outstanding if they are exercised for a profit. The American Bankers Association (ABA) has lobbied congress to cancel the warrants owned by taxpayers. The call them an "onerous exit fee."[53] Yet, if the Capital Purchase Program warrants of Goldman Sachs are representative, then the Capital Purchase Program warrants were worth between $5-to-$24 billion dollars as of May 1, 2009. Thus canceling the CPP warrants amounts to a $5-to-$24 billion dollar subsidy to the banking industry at taxpayers expense.[54] While the ABA wants the CPP warrants to be written off by taxpayers, Goldman Sachs does not hold that view. A representative of Goldman Sachs was quoted as saying "We think that taxpayers should expect a decent return on their investment and look forward to being able to provide just that when we are permitted to return the TARP money." [55]


See also

External links

  • (Listing of all economic recovery measures, including from the TARP program.)
  • (Listing of recipients for funds allocated or distributed under the TARP program.)
  • Analysis of the injection of Government equity capital into banks.

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