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Resolution Trust Corp. FAQs

How much did the RTC cleanup cost the taxpayer?

According to analysis by the FDIC, the total amount incurred by the taxpayer came to $75.6 billion, while the private sector absorbed just $7.1 billion. The taxpayer covered more than 90% of the cost of the bailout. The FSLIC also accumulated losses. The total tab to the taxpayer as of 1999 came out to $123 billion, or about 81% of the total costs.

How will a "new" RTC differ from the old RTC?

It would likely be very different. So far, only 11 banks have actually failed in the U.S. in 2008, and many of the assets are held by a wide variety of investment institutions. Thus, widespread bank failure hasn't been the issue, yet.

The crux of the issue comes down to complexity. The securities industry has changed dramatically since the early 1990s. The Commodities and Futures Modernization Act of 2000 led to the widespread use of credit default swaps. The size of the credit default swaps market has been estimated at roughly $45 trillion. Many of the credit swaps involved the use of mortgage-backed securities as collateral for counterparty risk. Some institutions assumed very little risk for the top tranches of those securities, often assuming the safety of a U.S. Treasury. Clearly, that was not the case.

A new RTC would have a very difficult job. Not only would the entity have to decide exactly what paper qualifies, but it may also have to decide the implications to the financial system, considering the size of the credit default swap market. As Paulson commented today, the key would be to ensure stability and recovery in the housing market -- the root of the problem. However, Congress may be forced to consider regulating the opaque and unregulated market of credit default swaps.

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