8/16/2012

Will history be kind to TARP?: No, if the accounting is done accurately.

WSJ: Bank CEO: History Will be Kind to TARP
“TARP successfully stabilized not only the banking industry but a number of other industries as well. The general view I would have is that history will be fairly kind to TARP,” Sterling Financial Corp. Chief Executive Greg Seibly said in an interview.
The Treasury Department this week announced that it expects to earn about $113.3 million in a public offering of the shares it holds in the Spokane, Wash.-based bank. Treasury also has received about $6.7 million in dividends from Sterling, and will get yet a little more back when it sells warrants it continues to own.
Still, it’s a steep discount and a clear net loss on the original investment of $303 million.
Overall, Treasury estimates that TARP will cost taxpayers $47.75 billion, largely due to expenses related to the auto bailout and housing programs.
TARP’s bank programs turned a profit, though Treasury is now selling off holdings in smaller banks at a discount. Sterling is the latest example. . . .
Is this really serious?   The GM loss is dramatically underestimated by the TARP accounting methods.  I suspect that bank losses are also underestimated for a similar reason.  Total subsidies should be measured, not just TARP subsidies.  In GM's case, tens of billions of dollars given to the company raises the value of the stock and also gave it the money to pay off the loans that it had received.  Those higher stock prices didn't come free.  In the case of banks, I suspect that all the subsidies given to the banks through the Fed were nontrivial and should also be counted.

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