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Fed May Join Banks in Unloading Bad Assets

The federal government's private sector partnership to dispose of toxic bank assets may also be the ideal way to clean up its own sagging balance sheet.

The Treasury Department on Monday extended the deadline for asset managers interested in participating in the Public-Private Investment Program two weeks to April 24, "to better accommodate increased participation."

The move comes two weeks after Treasury and the Federal Reserve said they were seeking to liquidate the so-called Maiden Lane facilities that were created to take on unwanted assets acquired in the rescues of Bear Stearns and American International Group (AIG - Get Report).

Maiden Lane, named after the New York Fed's street address, is the limited liability company formed to take on soured assets left after JPMorgan Chase (JPM - Get Report) acquired Bear in a government-assisted deal in March 2008.

Maiden Lane 2 was established to take on $18 billion in subprime mortgages from AIG, followed by Maiden Lane 3, which took on $24 billion of the insurer's bad collateralized debt obligations, or CDOs.

There is very little transparency for the roughly $70 billion Maiden Lane portfolios. Information is closely guarded, and representatives have resisted discussing it. BlackRock (BLK - Get Report), which manages the portfolios, would not comment on them.

The Federal Reserve, when it took on the Bear Stearns assets in the first Maiden Lane, initially said it did not anticipate a loss to taxpayers because the assets would either be held to maturity or sold at a profit. A year later, however, the portfolio appears to have dropped in value.

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