Much ado about TARP profits

Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) listen to questions from reporters after a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.

TEXT OF STORY

Kai Ryssdal: Alisa mentioned that one of the drags on profits for Morgan Stanley was the cost of repaying TARP money. And it was, but there is more to it than just that. In addition to the billions in cash that Morgan and the other banks got and had to pay back, they also had to give the government stock warrants. Options, essentially, to buy company stock at a pre-determined price. Those warrant prices were way lower that what most bank shares are trading at now. Earlier today Goldman Sachs bought its warrants back from the Treasury Department. Cost 'em about a billion-and-a-half-dollars. For those of you keeping track at home, when you add up the interest on Goldman's $10 billion bailout, plus buying back the warrants, taxpayers got a 23 percent annualized rate of return. Marketplace's Steve Henn explains that presents Congress with an unexpected dilemma: What to do with the money.


STEVE HENN: OK, so not all of the Treasury's TARP investments are doing as well as Goldman Sachs but out of the banks that have paid us back, Treasury's already cleared close to $8 billion in profit.

JAMES Chessen: Taxpayers are getting a great return. It's over 12 percent.

James Chessen is the chief economist at the American Bankers Association. He admits that kind of return on investment might not hold up over the long haul but...

Chessen: This is a big success for the government.

Chessen says by passing the bailout last fall, Congress stabilized the markets and made some serious money doing it. But now politicians in Washington have a new problem. How should they spend their windfall?

BARNEY Frank: We are going to see more foreclosures because people have lost their jobs.

Barney Frank is the Democratic chair of the House Financial Services Committee.

Frank: I think a good use of the TARP money here -- the dividends and interest and warrants -- would be to lend people money until they get their jobs back. These would literally be loans not grants.

Frank would also like to spend a few billion allowing cities to buy and rehab derelict properties and make investments in affordable rental housing. But Congressman Spencer Bachus, an Alabama Republican, is skeptical.

SPENCER Bachus: Those proposals have a human side. You know there are a lot of people in foreclosure. There is a lot of abandoned property. But Chairman Bernanke came before us yesterday and said our spending is unsustainable.

And Bachus says with the national debt already above $11.6 trillion, any profits from the banking bailout have really already been spent.

In Washington, I'm Steve Henn for Marketplace.

About the author

Steve Henn was Marketplace’s technology and innovation reporter for the entire portfolio of Marketplace programs until December 2011.

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