P-PIP program making money

Spring-time flowers bloom on a tree in front of the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington, D.C.

TEXT OF STORY

BOB MOON: OK, maybe it's a little obscure, but the term P-PIP stands for public-private investment program. It's a key piece of the Obama administration's efforts to bring the financial system back from the brink. And it turns out that nine months into the program, it could be making a lot of money for taxpayers. Marketplace's Amy Scott joins us live this morning with an update. Good morning, Amy.

AMY SCOTT: Good morning, Bob.

MOON: So how much money is this program supposed to be bringing in?

SCOTT: The New York Times reports that it's made an estimated 15.5 percent return for taxpayers, that's on paper more than $650 million. I talked to the guy who calculated those figures for the returns for the Times -- Linus Wilson at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. He warns that the profits might just be luck and may not last.

LUKE WILSON: It's very early, so these are 8-10 year investments. And we're not even a year in. So we won't really know what happens until these investments are exited or we have an independent audit of these programs.

Wilson also says if you include the money that taxpayers loaned these funds to make the investments, the return is more like 5.5 percent.

MOON: OK. We're talking about the P-PIP. I don't think many of us are real familiar with that term, right?

SCOTT: Right. Well, it started back in the scary days after the financial crisis. The Obama administration was trying to revive the market for all those mortgage-backed securities that were weighing on bank balance sheets. No one wanted to buy them, so they became almost worthless. In setting up this program, the Treasury Department chose a handful of private investment firms, gave them matching money and cheap loans to start buying up some of those troubled assets. There was quite a bit of skepticism. But these returns show that the program may have helped revive the market. And in its response to the Times, The Treasury Department says it's happy with the program so far.

MOON: Marketplace's Amy Scott live, thanks.

SCOTT: You're welcome.

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