NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The troubled asset relief program (TARP) has meant many things to many banks.
For Wells Fargo (WFC), it was a nuisance that executives were determined not to let run its business. They did not want to dilute shareholders like Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) by issuing new equity to pay it back, but they ended up doing so nonetheless. Berkshire Chairman Warren Buffett said the government forced Wells to issue the equity, an assertion that was never addressed either by Wells or government officials.Bank of America (BAC) needed the government funds more than executives there cared to admit, but they were only too happy to issue equity and pay it back at the first opportunity. Citigroup (C) has done what it could to break free, but now it's waiting on the Treasury, which converted the remaining $25 billion of an initial $45 billion preferred equity stake into 7.7 billion common shares that it plans to sell off gradually. For smaller banks, however -- and even large regionals -- the issue of when to repay TARP is not quite so fraught with politics. Eighty companies have paid back TARP so far out of 830 that have received a government bailout. Some of these are not banks in the strictest sense, and there are still some large companies out there, like AIG (AIG), Fannie Mae (FNM) and Freddie Mac (FRE)or GMAC, each of whose efforts to pay back the government is a story unto itself. Our goal here is to look at five large traditional banks -- ones that used to be known as super regionals -- that have yet to pay back TARP, and to try to figure out when they might do so. It may give us a decent clue about how the more than 700 smaller banks that still hold TARP funds are likely to proceed.