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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A $250 Billion Dollar Investment

Some details on the bank bailout plan:

U.S. Investing $250 Billion in Banks, NY Times: The Treasury Department, in its boldest move yet, is expected to announce a plan on Tuesday to invest up to $250 billion in banks... The United States is also expected to guarantee new debt issued by banks for three years — a measure meant to encourage the banks to resume lending to one another and to customers...

And the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will offer an unlimited guarantee on bank deposits in accounts that do not bear interest — typically those of businesses...

Rescue

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. outlined the plan to nine of the nation’s leading bankers at an afternoon meeting, officials said. He essentially told the participants that they would have to accept government investment for the good of the American financial system.

Of the $250 billion, which will come from the $700 billion bailout approved by Congress, half is to be injected into nine big banks, including Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase... The other half is to go to smaller banks and thrifts. The investments will be structured so that the government can benefit from a rebound in the banks’ fortunes. ...

Bringing together all nine executives and directing them to participate was a way to avoid stigmatizing any one bank that chose to accept the government investment.

The preferred stock that each bank will have to issue will pay special dividends, at a 5 percent interest rate that will be increased to 9 percent after five years. The government will also receive warrants worth 15 percent of the face value of the preferred stock. For instance, if the government makes a $10 billion investment, then the government will receive $1.5 billion in warrants. If the stock goes up, taxpayers will share the benefits. If the stock goes down, the warrants will be worthless.

The next immediate step is to begin purchasing distressed assets:

As Treasury embarked on its recapitalization plan, it offered some details on the nuts-and-bolts of the broader bailout effort. The program’s interim head, Neel T. Kashkari, said Treasury had ... named an investment management consultant ... to help it select asset management firms to buy distressed bank assets. And it plans to announce the firm that will serve as the program’s prime contractor, running auctions and holding assets, within the next day. ...

Other government interventions:

Intervention is Bld, but Has a Basis in History, Steve Lohr, NY Times: ... The government’s plan to prop up banks large and small ... is an exceptional step, but not an unprecedented one.

The United States has a culture that celebrates laissez-faire capitalism as the economic ideal, yet the practice strays at times. Over the last century, the federal government has occasionally taken stakes in railways, coal mines and steel mills, and has even taken a controlling interest in banks when it was deemed to be in the national interest.

The corporate wards of the state typically have been returned to private hands after short, sometimes fleeting, stretches under federal stewardship. ... In 1917, the government seized the railroads to make sure goods, armaments and troops moved smoothly in the interests of national defense during World War I. After the war ended, bondholders and stockholders were compensated and railways were returned to private ownership in 1920.

During World War II, Washington seized dozens of companies, including railroads, coal mines and, briefly, the Montgomery Ward department store chain. In 1952, President Harry S. Truman seized 88 steel mills across the country, asserting that unyielding owners were determined to provoke an industrywide strike that would cripple the Korean War effort. That nationalization did not last long, though, because the Supreme Court ruled the move an unconstitutional abuse of presidential power.

In banking, the government took an 80 percent stake in the Continental Illinois Bank and Trust in 1984. ... As the nation’s seventh-largest bank, Continental Illinois was deemed “too big to fail”... In the end, the government lost an estimated $1 billion on the bad loans it bought as part of the takeover...

The nearest precedent for the Treasury plan, finance experts say, are the investments made by the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in the 1930s. The agency, established in 1932, not only made loans to distressed banks, but also bought stock in 6,000 banks, at a cost of $1.3 billion, said Mr. Sylla, the N.Y.U. economist. A similar effort these days, in proportion to today’s economy, would be about $200 billion.

When the economy stabilized eventually, the government sold the stock to private investors or the banks themselves — and about broke even...

    Posted by on Tuesday, October 14, 2008 at 12:24 AM in Economics, Financial System, Policy | Permalink  TrackBack (1)  Comments (11)

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