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Taxpayers shorted on bailout profits
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TEXT OF INTERVIEW
Bill Radke: Taxpayers rescued America’s banks, and a report out this morning concludes
so far we’re not getting enough in return. See, in exchange for the rescue, the government received entitlements to bank shares. These are called warrants. And when the banks repay the bailout money, they’re allowed to buy back those warrants. And whether taxpayers make money on that deal depends on the price.
This morning, a Congressional oversight panel said in the case of the smaller banks, the Treasury Department has been setting that price too low, leaving taxpayers short. We’re joined by the head of that oversight panel, Harvard Law professor Elizabeth Warren. Good morning.
Elizabeth Warren: Good morning.
Radke: Your panel has said that if the government follows this model with the huge banks — the JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley — the taxpayers could lose $2 billion. Why would the Treasury leave so much taxpayer money on the table?
Warren: Well, our job in the oversight panel is basically to make sure that they don’t leave money on the table. But we also acknowledge that there are competing policy demands. And you know, when you try to get out fast, that may change the price. The valuation process, I want to be clear, it’s not an exact science. Nonetheless, it is important to pay attention to the development of a fair market value, and at least aim in that direction.
Radke: So you’ve released this report this morning, now what happens with it?
Warren: Well, now Treasury, having made the decision to turn lose of these 10 large banks, continues the business of negotiating out the price that these banks will have to pay for the warrants in order to be able to get out of the TARP system. And whatever happens there will determine how much of the upside the American taxpayer gets for the rescue that it gave to at least some of the biggest financial institutions, who at least seem to be doing better right now.
Radke: Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren heads the congressional oversight panel monitoring the federal bank rescue program. Professor, thank you.
Warren: Thank you.
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