Financial firms want bailout clarified
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Scott Jagow: The $700 billion rescue package was in many ways, for the banks. But we’re starting to hear grumbling from the banking industry about this plan to buy problem assets. The program’s known as TARP.
On Monday, there’s a big meeting between the Treasury and the banks to talk about TARP. A securities industry trade group just came out with a survey, and it found that financial players are so unclear about how TARP would work, they aren’t sure they want to participate. Here’s Ashley Milne-Tyte.
Ashley Milne-Tyte: The Treasury’s plan to buy troubled assets is less than two months old, so perhaps it’s not surprising the financial industry still has its doubts. Tim Ryan is President of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or SIFMA. He says by all means get the program under way.
Tim Ryan: Our view is that the most important thing they can do — meaning the government — is to initiate the asset purchase program so that we can get price discovery.
Meaning clarity on prices — companies want to know how much they’ll receive for their troubled assets. Ryan says right now financial firms that hold those securities have no idea what they’re worth, because no one’s buying.
Bert Ely is a banking consultant. He says, because the market isn’t setting the prices, the government’s going to have to. One way is simply to negotiate.
Bert Ely: But that becomes very complicated for hard-to-value assets. There’s also a potential for pricing abuses and controversies.
He says, if the government ends up overpaying for assets, that’s great for the financial institutions, but bad for taxpayers.
Ely: On the other hand, if the government price is too low, then banks will be unwilling to sell to the government because they will have to take too much of a loss.
Many in the industry have voiced exactly those concerns. They’re hoping for some answers on Monday. SIFMA expected around 100 people to attend its curtain-raiser on the Troubled Asset Relief Program. Five hundred have signed up.
In New York, I’m Ashley Milne-Tyte for Marketplace.
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